"I usually put together a concert trying to anticipate what people really want to hear and put some surprises in as well," BSM
MONTREAL - Buffy Sainte-Marie still has indelible memories of the last time she gave a concert in Montreal, back in 2009 at the grandiose St. Jean Baptiste Church in the Plateau Mont-Royal.
“That was such a beautiful show – I still look at the pictures,” the 71-year-old singer-songwriter, born in Saskatchewan but a long-time resident of Hawaii, said Wednesday during a layover in Toronto.
This time, she’s returning on tour with her all-aboriginal rock band from Winnipeg to play a free outdoor gig Friday at the Mondial Loto-Québec festival in Laval.
Before that, in Quebec City, she’s skedded to give a morning talk on aboriginal education at a national school boards conference, along with former Canadian prime minister Paul Martin.
It’s all in a day’s work for the indefatigable Sainte-Marie, best known for her ’60s protest song Universal Soldier, co-writing the Oscar-winning Up Where We Belong and as a Sesame Street regular in the late-1970s.
In Laval she’ll perform the hits and other much-covered tunes like Until It’s Time for You to Go and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, as well as material from her 2008 comeback album, Running for the Drum.
“I usually put together a concert trying to anticipate what people really want to hear and put some surprises in as well,” said Sainte-Marie, who sings and plays guitar and keyboards.
In Laval, “it’ll be rock ’n’ roll and it’ll be love songs and what people don’t expect. I’m like a kindergarten kid – I play with anything that happens to be in the room, and I have a good time with it.”
She attracts audiences that appreciate her activist songs, but no longer feels she needs to project an image of a “Pocahontas with a guitar,” as she once disparagingly put it.
Audiences are much more aware of First Nations than they once were, “just as they are about everybody,” she said. “Being on television made such a big difference; so did touring.
“Just showing up offers a huge snapshot into the fact that we exist.”
So does the platform aboriginal artists now have at the Juno awards, with a category all their own. “In the rest of the world we’re still a novelty item, though.”
Sainte-Marie keeps in shape by working out at the gym wherever she goes, as do her band members. She’s got them to eat better, too: fresh juice and oatmeal for breakfast, not bacon and eggs.
“Also, privately, I’m crazy about flamenco, and since the ’60s I’ve taken dance classes. So I like dancing, I like working out – I’m really active; I jump around a lot on stage, too.
“I’m in as good shape as I was in my 20s,” she boasted.
“It’s important to stay energized.”
Buffy Sainte-Marie and her band perform outdoors at 8 p.m. at the Scène Loto-Québec of Espace Montmorency, 475 de l’Avenir Blvd. in Laval (Montmorency métro). Admission is free. For more details, visit mlql.ca/en
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