Buffy Sainte-Marie was an eye- and ear-opener from the first moment I saw her walk onstage in 1965 at Niagara University. She still is, as she arrives here on Saturday to play the Eighth Step at Proctors GE Theater (432 State St., Schenectady).
She was the first solo folk singer I ever saw hold the stage and the crowd all by herself, the first woman to do so, and the first American Indian. (First Nations citizen, actually, as Canada’s indigenous people are known. She was born on the Piapot Cree reserve in Saskatchewan, but raised by adoptive parents in New England.)
She sang the first advocacy songs I ever heard, bemoaning the oppression of indigenous people (“Now that the Buffalo’s Gone”), for example, and opposing war (“Universal Soldier”), and some of the most deeply personal songs possible, about recovery from addiction (“Cod’ine”) and from love (“Until It’s time for You To Go”). She was spellbindingly charismatic, passionately articulate and bravely engaged with issues — of nations and of hearts — an astounding introduction into what folk music could be and do.
She has been redefining those possibilities for 40 years. Billboard magazine named her its Best New Artist after her debut album appeared, and everyone from Elvis to Barbra Streisand, Joe Cocker and the Boston Pops has recorded her songs. Although some sought to pigeonhole her as a feathered primitive, she has always been much, much more. She pioneered the use of synthesizers (a Buchla, on her quadraphonic “Illuminations” album in 1969), became an early (1981) user of Apple computers in recording music and making visual art, and (in 1992) recorded her “Coincidence and Likely Stories” album by transmitting musical tracks digitally over the Internet to a producer in England, probably the first album ever created that way.
Sainte-Marie has paid a price for the candor of her songs, which often attack injustice and war. She was blacklisted in the late 1960s/early 1970s, along with Pete Seeger, Eartha Kitt, Taj Mahal and others, for publicly opposing the Vietnam War. Nonetheless, she has scaled remarkable heights of achievement. She appeared on “Sesame Street” for five years and in the film “The Broken Chain” with Pierce Brosnan. She won an Oscar for writing “Up Where We Belong,” the theme of the film “An Officer and a Gentleman,” as sung by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes. She also earned a Ph.D. and a handful of honorary doctorates, and the United Nations chose her to proclaim officially its International Year of Indigenous Peoples in 1993, when France proclaimed her its Best International Artist.
“In concert, I do a combination of what audiences always ask for, and new songs,” she promised by e-mail on Tuesday. “As usual, the songs are unique and diverse,” she added. “Folk, country, Euro-house remix, powwow rock, protest and big love songs.”
She will perform on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Eighth Step at Proctors GE Theater, with her three musicians and two harmony singers. Admission is $25. Phone 434-1703 or 346-6204, or visit www.eighthstep.org or www.proctors.org.
In addition to Sainte-Marie’s show, Saturday is full of music.
The “Sixties Spectacular” at Proctors main stage on Saturday features Peter Noone, the Turtles, Gary Puckett, and the Bluz House Rockers.
With Herman’s Hermits, Noone sang the huge hits “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” “I’m Into Something Good,” “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” and many more.
Tuneful and conventional when they started — their first show was at the Rose Bowl, opening for Herman’s Hermits — the Turtles scored big with “Happy Together,” “Elenore” and more, before lead singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan joined Frank Zappa’s very unconventional Mothers of Invention, became DJs, made cartoon music (Strawberry Shortcake and the Care Bears) and led the revival of 1960s music with the Happy Together Tour in the early 1980s.
Puckett powered lusty love songs with his big baritone: “Young Girl,” “Lady Willpower,” “Woman, Woman” and more.
The Bluz House Rockers may be the most earthy and accomplished classic-rockers around.
Show time for the “Sixties Spectacular” at Proctors is 7:30 p.m. Admission is $49.75 and $34.75. Phone 346-6204 or visit www.proctors.org.
Bassist Victor Wooten leads America’s funkiest band, recording bold bass-centric albums and touring when the Flecktones are on hiatus. He returns to The Egg on Saturday with brothers Regi (guitar) and Joe (keyboards), drummer Derico Watson, bassist Anthony Wellington and maybe a rapper/singer or two.
A bassist of unlimited technique and expressive power, Wooten co-stars in a handful of other bands besides this one and the Flecktones, writes books, and leads workshops in music and nature studies.
Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $24. Phone 473-1845 or visit www.theegg.org.
RUSSELL AT WAMC
Catherine Russell takes over the spotlight at the Linda Norris Auditorium of the WAMC Performing Arts Studio (339 Central Ave., Albany) on Saturday, after harmonizing with Rosanne Cash at The Egg on her “Black Cadillac” tour late in 2006 and playing Albany’s Tulip Festival in last May. She’s ready for her own show, with a new album “Sentimental Streak” and her own band.
Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $20. Phone 465-5233 ext. 4 or visit www.wamc.org.
On Saturday, the subdudes put a soulful New Orleans spin on good-time, and sad times, rock ’n’ roll at the Bearsville Theater (291 Tinker St., Woodstock). This is one of America’s best bands. Doors open at 8 p.m., show time is 9 p.m. Admission $32.95. Phone 845-679-4406 or visit www.bearsvilletheater.com.
The new Terry Adams Rock ’n’ Roll Quartet plays the Bearsville Theater tonight. Adams brought this new crew to WAMC for its first-ever show last year, and they rocked the joint capably and confidently after very little rehearsal. Doors open at 8 p.m., show time is 9 p.m. Admission is $20 in advance, $25 at the door.