Buffy Sainte-Marie @ Corona Theatre – 16th February 2019

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Last night, I had the honor of attending the performance of a Canadian icon.  As soon as Buffy Sainte-Marie glided onto the stage, in her silver studded, black leather jacket, black high heeled boots and slim fit jeans she immediately exuded a powerful energy that heated up the old Corona Theatre.  Lifting up her arms and greeting the crowd with her wide, radiant smile, she somehow connected an entire room of strangers, who were ready to follow her on a sacred musical journey.

She began the show with an energetic version of “It’s My Way”, from her very first album (with the same name), which was recorded in 1964.  Strumming effortlessly on her beautiful Yamaha Silent Guitar, which she told us, was a gift from Randy Bachman.  And then followed with “I’m Gonna Be a Country Girl Again” (1968).

She then put down her guitar and picked up her mouth bow to play “Cripple Creek” and I was reminded why I became captivated by this remarkable woman, so many years ago.  As an immigrant Armenian child, growing up in the 70’s, Buffy’s appearance on Sesame Street had a profound affect on me.  Seeing this beautiful, dark haired lady and listening to her soothing voice, not only taught me English but really informed me about Canada’s Indigenous people.

Buffy spoke so warmly, in between her songs, explaining the origins and back stories of her numerous hits.  Informing us that her songs have been covered by artists ranging from Elvis and Bobby Darren, to Joe Cocker and Barbara Streisand.  (Her song “Cod’ine”, from her debut album in 1964, has been recorded by Janis Joplin, Donovan, Gram Parsons, The Charlatans, Courtney Love and more).  She was witty and charming and she even spoke French.

Making the most of her 75-minute show, she transitioned smoothly from upbeat and whimsical songs like “That’s What Little Kids Do” to the painful “My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying”.   Written about the genocide of her people,  from the album entitled Little Wheel Spin and Spin.  It’s hard to believe that album was released in 1966 when we could all feel the power and urgency in her voice.  

The fact that she had no band on stage to accompany her, did not stop her from playing some of her more current hits.  With her keyboard, computer and stunning graphics, she managed to create a  brilliant version of “You Got To Run” without Tanya Tagaq.  As well as treating us to a newer song entitled “The War Racket” from Medicine Songs 2015.

This singer, song writer, musician, mother teacher, healer, activist and original badass (she was blacklisted from American radio stations in 70’s and watched by the FBI for her role in the protest movement) will be 78 on February 20th.  She is still performing, creating and enlightening.  Although she is touring to promote her new biography, she was mostly interested in promoting idea of “alternative conflict resolution.”

She closed the show with “Universal Soldier”, (It’s My Way 1964) which still resonates after so many decades.  Her message of peace and love, lifting us with the strength of her voice and the conviction of her words.

The opening act was Josh Q, a Nunavut native with a big and soulful voice.  Think love child Eddie Vedder and Joe Cocker.  He also played solo, alternating between acoustic and electric guitars.  It was a short set but he managed to warm up the crowd very quickly.

Review – Annette Aghazarian 

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