Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Tabernacle, London W11 4/5
OF ALL the singer-songwriters described as protest singers in the 1960s, none came closer to matching up to expectations than Buffy Sainte-Marie.
A Native American from the Cree nation, her heart-rending songs about the consequences of the destruction of indigenous communities in the US still have the power to move while also providing an inspiring message of resistance.
Though categorised as a folk singer because of that association with protest, Sainte-Marie was never really a traditional songstress. As this concert shows, she’s always encompassed a wide range of genres including country, bluegrass and pure rock’n’roll. She starts with one of her early songs It’s My Way, then moves on to numbers from her most recent CD including No, No Keshagesh which deals with the greed of multinationals, uranium mining and the war drive. It’s followed later by her classic anti-war song Universal Soldier.
Yet she also shows herself at ease on less serious numbers. Her biggest hit in Britain I’m Gonna Be a Country Girl Again has the audience clapping along and her love song Until It’s Time for You To Go — covered by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley and Vera Lynn — goes down a treat.
She then turns again to the political, with the theme song from Soldier Blue, a film well known in Europe but barely so in the US after the Nixon administration took it off the air. Around this time Sainte-Marie experienced what she calls the “blacklist years,” which thankfully never stifled her voice or her campaigning.
There’s a surprise towards the end as she delivers the Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes hit Up Where We Belong, which many are unaware she wrote, and as a finale she delivered the brilliant protest song Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
Incredibly, Saint-Marie is now in her 73rd year. But the energy and passion she and her band put into her set would put a lot of younger artists to shame. Long may she continue to do so.