Buffy Sainte-Marie and band took to the stage in the intimate setting of the West End Cultural Center to the thunderous applause of the full house of 360 people.
They started the evening off with ‘Piney Wood Hills‘ and Buffy’s voice was in fine form. Her voice has stood the test of time. She was in a good mood and so were her fans.
Her backing band for the past five years consists of former Gathering of Flies drummer Mike Bruyere and guitarist Jesse Green (son of blues great Billy Joe Green) and bassist Leroy Constant. The band is very tight and as Leroy told me, “Buffy has taught us finesse.”
Considering these Manitoba born musicians came from a hard rock background, it’s clear Buffy has found the perfect match with her beautiful guitar playing and keyboards. But her greatest instrument is her amazing vocals, which at 73 years of age, sound as good as they did 50 years ago.
The band played her songs gracefully and poured on the steam when necessary, like on the rockabilly song ‘Blue Sunday‘ from the 2008 Juno winning album ‘Running For the Drum‘. As Buffy mentioned, they are currently on a two-year world tour which has taken four years so far. “We’re not very good at math,” she quipped.
The nineteen songs that she performed Tuesday night were filled with passion and emotion. Buffy writes from the heart and makes a statement with every song.
Her outspoken attitude got her blacklisted from radio play by the Nixon administration. This was partly due to her ‘protest’ songs like ‘Universal Soldier‘ which has been an anthem for the anti-war movements over the years.
She told the audience that director Ralph Nelson wanted her to write the title song for the movie Soldier Blue (1970), about the Sand Creek massacre in Colorado in 1864. Buffy didn’t think she could do it, but she pulled it off and the song went to number one in Europe and Asia. The movie wasn’t seen much in America and the song is fairly obscure here.
Buffy also related a story about when she was in Regina with her father when ‘guys were going to the the moon’ and her father said, “They oughta leave that moon alone.” She ended up using that line in her song that she wrote around that time, ‘Generation C’.
She also performed the song ‘No No Keshagesh‘ after talking about what’s going on in Fort McMurray, Alberta, and the destruction of the boreal forest. Keshagesh is a Cree word for ‘greedy guts’ referring to environmental greed.
Always upbeat and cheerful, Buffy joked, “I don’t suppose there’s any old hippies here tonight?” before she launched into the old hippie song ‘We Are Circling‘, a song about unity and celebration.
She also mentioned how she saw an old poster downstairs of Shingoose, another outspoken activist/ musician on behalf of aboriginal peoples. Shingoose was in the audience and chatted with Buffy after the show. Also in the audience were Buffy’s nieces who she was very happy to be able to visit.
Buffy and Jesse did a wonderful little guitar/ vocal duet in the middle of ‘Country Girl‘, a song she “…used to do on Sesame Street with a cow, a pig and a horse.”
After the powerful performances of ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee‘ and ‘Starwalker‘, the band left the stage to a standing ovation, before coming back for ‘Indian Cowboy’.
Buffy and her band certainly captivated the audience on this magical night. One of the ushers said that not many people actually left the room the whole evening.
After the 90-minute show Buffy and the members of the band came out to the lobby and did a meet and greet, signing CD’s and albums, and taking photos with the fans.
The four piece Vancouver band The Fugitives opened the show with a 35-minute set of their very upbeat collection of folk tunes.
The Fugitives, formed in 2005, are a Canadian folk collective headed by singer/ songwriters Brendan McLeod (vocals and guitars) and Adrian Glynn (vocals, guitar and balalaika). They were joined by Chris Quinn on banjo and Ali on violin and vocals.
This was the first night for them on the tour with Buffy and they played a series of solo shows on their way here to Winnipeg in their rented car. Brendan told a few funny stories between songs and commented on Winnipeg having the highest per capita restaurants in Canada and our love of Slurpees. They ended off their set with an interesting foot stomping, rapping, folk, A cappella tune that warmed up the audience.
Buffy’s set list for the night:
Piney Wood Hills
Cho Cho Fire
Darling Don’t Cry
We Are Circling
Up Where We Belong
No No Keshagesh
Not the Loving Kind
Until it’s Time For You to Go
Look at the Facts
Qu’Appelle Valley Travel
Still This Love Goes On and On
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
All photos by Doug Kretchmer