WHEN LARRY MET BUFFY PART 2
At the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Buffy Sainte-Marie puts on a spirited show, fronting a band of four handsome braves. She must be at least sixty years old, so fair play to the old squaw. Not that you'd think it from my seat in the Queen Elizabeth hall; she looks great, not a day over 40, and very different from her earlier yogurt-weaving persona; she's rocking the retro-new wave thing with Joan Jett pants, high heels and an excruciatingly well-fitting studded leather jacket. And It's about time somebody mixed Traditional Native American Pow-Wow music with 80's hair rock. With a career as long and as confusing as hers, she's had more image changes than Doctor Who. Her heart remains in Greenwich Village though, and she takes every opportunity during her set to remind us how nasty war is.
There are two obvious flashpoints in the set, where her grey-haired acolytes wake up and clap. These are her two Massive hits written 18 years apart, the aforementioned 'Universal soldier', and the Multi-Platinum-Rhodium-Uranium selling love-ballad 'Take Me Up Where We Belong'. The first one is an impassioned plea for peace and inter-faith brotherhood, a plaintive cri de coeur in a dark epoch of American imperialism. The second is the theme song from, er, 'Top Gun'.*
"Yeah! Sing it Sister! Alright!” goes Larry at the end of every song, like he does on stage, like he does when he gets off stage, and probably when he's having sexual intercourse or doing a poo.
Larry leans over to me and says authoritatively 'You gotta respect the craft!'
Do I Larry? Do I have to? You can't ignore the fact that she's written some corkers, including songs for Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand and Elvis. But 'craft' is a funny word. It’s a process of refining and embellishing an object whose form and function have already been decided. If you create a new kind of object, that's called Art, isn't it? And that's better, right?
I'm about to duck out for the bar when the lights dim, BSM picks up her acoustic and with clawed fingers begins to pick out a strange, hypnotic pattern. This frames an eerie gem of a song that sends an unexpected chill round the auditorium. She creens like an ancient, vengeful spirit:
Little wheels spin and spin, big wheels turn around and around
© Orlando Harrison 2012
*Last time I heard this song live was when we supported Joe Cocker at a festival in Portugal. I didn't meet him, sadly. Despite the fact that it was a fabulously sunny day in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, he spent the entire gig up until the moment of his performance cooped up in a massive black bus with tinted windows, like Darth Vadar in the Death Star.