My mother had quite the collection of vinyl records and there was always a variety of music playing at our house ever since I was a baby, anywhere from blues to jazz to classical, from rocknroll to punk to folk music.
In 1992, my mother brought home a record that would play on repeat for months. She would put on Starwalker and I remember her long red hair flowing in the air when she danced to it, or her playing Goodnight at the end of the evening for me and my brother to calm us down before bedtime.
There was something very special and unique about the singer’s voice, the lyrics, and the music itself, and to this date, that album is still one of my favourites of all times. That album was Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Coincidence and Likely Stories.
This past Monday, after a 25 year wait, I had the privilege to witness Sainte-Marie perform an hour and a half of her most well known songs from along the years as well as sneak peeks of her upcoming album titled Medicine Songs, in front of a sold out National Arts Gallery of Canada, and I was not left disappointed.
Opening the evening was Yellowknife’s talented singer/songwriter Leela Gilday with her band. She performed a powerful set of songs about a grandmother whose loved one had moved on to the spirit world, about people of Standing Rock, about her friend’s missing sister and missing indigenous women, and about healing relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous people, while joking about picking the most serious songs for her performance for the night.
Gilday’s soulful voice is an absolutely pleasure to listen to and I cannot think of a better opener for the wonderful night of celebration of women in music.
Sainte-Marie started the show with It’s My Way from her first album, followed by the the recent Tanya Tagaq collaboration You Got To Run and No No Keshagesh from the 2008 album Running for the Drum. After an energetic start, Sainte-Marie invited DJ Shub on stage for Working for the Government and Shub’s solo, before kicking off Power in the Blood reminding us of the true meaning of power.
Circling got the audience humming quietly with Sainte-Marie, followed by Universal Soldier before talking about our individual responsibility to contribute to today’s world.
To make the night even more special, the Canadian rock veteran Randy Bachman joined Sainte-Marie on stage for a few songs including the ballad Up Where We Belong, and brought down the roof with ZZ Top cover I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide and Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s Takin’ Care of Business.
Sainte-Marie performed a heart wrenching solo version of Bury My Heart in Wounded Knee, and as a final song of the night one of her most well known songs, Starwalker, which might have brought a tear or two to the audience’s eyes, before returning on stage for encore to perform Carry It On with all her guests of the evening.
I was absolutely blown away by her ability to capture the audience and deliver such a powerful, touching performance. Throughout the night, in between the songs, the cheerful Sainte-Marie chatted about indigenous issues, hippies, Vietnam War, book recommendations and work that needs to be done in Canada for the next 150 years.
At 76 years young, Sainte-Marie has not lost any of her spunk and is still very much an activist at heart.
By Laura Collins