• By: OLM Staff

Takin’ Care of Business with Buffy & Bachman

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Photos by Marc Bourget

When you picture 76-year-old folk music legend you probably don’t imagine somebody dressed in pleather, wailing electric guitar solos, Dj master mixing and a hurricane force of energy that tears up the stage like a 20-year-old over-caffeinated aerobics instructor. For over half a decade, Buffy Sainte-Marie has shown time and again that definitions are best left in the dictionary.

As if accentuating this fact, “I’m cutting my own way / through my own day / and all I dare say is / it’s my own” were the words she chose to begin last night’s NAC Canada Scene concert with.  

How do you even begin to describe the ever shifting Canadian cultural icon? She doesn’t slow down long enough for you to catch up.

If you try to box her in she’ll bust through the walls. Pin her down and she’ll pop back up. Labels are something to rip off and burn. Try to make her walk one road and she’ll pave five more. To some she’s strumming her six string acoustic in New York’s Greenwich Village at the height of the 1960's folk scene. To others she’s remembered alongside a giant yellow bird, a cookie gobbling monster and Mr. Snuffleupagus. She’s an activist of Indigenous rights. She’s an Oscar winner blacklisted by Hoover and Nixon. Lately she’s reinvented herself yet again by fusing her message with electronica on her Polarias Prize winning “Power in the Blood”.

“Lift your heart to your own home planet. What do you see? What is your attitude? Are you here to improve or damn it? Look right now and you will see we’re only here by the skin of our teeth as it is so take heart and take care of your link with life,” Sainte-Marie told the Nation Saturday afternoon as she kicked off Canada’s next 150-years. From the Hill to the newly unveiled National Arts Centre, she continued to explore themes of love, war, and our relationships with nature and one another in a powerful performance that proved she doesn’t just have a lot of gas left in the tank but at least a couple more engines back in the garage!

“Oh, we’re going to have some fun tonight,” the musician said with a beaming smile after a she was met with a standing ovation when she walked onto the stage.

What proceed was a show as eclectic as the woman herself jumping from songs from her days at the forefront of the folk-revival (“Universal Soilder”, “My Country Tis of Thy People”), cuts from her coming album Medicine Songs and her newfound foray into electronic beats with former A Tribe Called Red member DJ Shub. Saint-Marie parked herself alongside the turntable and sang along to the mix of “Working for the Government”. but she also came to rock. Who better to call upon to take care of that business than rocker Randy Bachman?

Despite both having come up in the same era, albeit two different musical paths, the “sweet little Cree from over the border” and The Guess Who guitarist had never performed together on stage until last night. The sold-out NAC crowd would be treated to an alternate reality, Bachman-Buffy Overdrive, if you will, that left them simultaneously wanting more and wondering, well, what if?

The duo revealed an unreleased song they wrote together, a jazzy gem of a tune called “Stormy Weather Guy”, and then continued to duet on Sainte-Marie’s Oscar-winning classic “Up Where We Belong”. Bachman sliced into the ZZ Top hit “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” before all joined in for “Takin’ Care of Business”, Buffy gleefully banging a tambourine in the background as Randy unleashed his guitar on a crowd that had now found their dancing feet. Thankfully Southam Hall now has those wider aisles.

The final half of the set focused on a reconciliation. Though the country has placed owning up for past mistakes made against our Indigenous people at the forefront of the Nation’s consciousness, Sainte-Marie has been waiting there for Canada to catch up for decades. Putting an exclamation point on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Canada Day speech, she dedicated “Starwalker” to the past and, hopefully looking ahead, informed the future that “we’ve got a lot of work to do in the next 150 years.”

It's My Way
You Got to Run
No No Keshagesh
Working for the Government (/w DJ Shub)
DJ Shub solo
Power in the Blood
Universal soldier
Generation Am
Until It’s Time
Something to Relax My Mind
Sweet Little Vera
Stormy Weather Guy (/w Randy Bachman)
Up Where We Belong (/w Randy Bachman)
I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide (/w Randy Bachman)
Takin Care of Business (/w Randy Bachman)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
War Racket
My Country Tis of Thy People

Carry It On