Coeur de Pirate Finds Her Way Back Home

  • Coeur de Pirate, or Béatrice Martin, played a sold-out show at Metropolis the evening of March 23. // Courtesy Dare To Care Records

With a sold-out show at Metropolis on Wednesday night, it seemed Montrealers were happy to welcome back their very own Coeur de Pirate — the pop star born and raised in the Plateau.

Coeur de Pirate is the pseudonym of Montrealer Béatrice Martin, a tattooed indie-pop musician who has built a name for herself in Canada and around the world with charming, piano-driven French ballads and a memorable, one-of-a-kind voice.

In the days leading up to Wednesday’s show, Martin echoed Montreal’s enthusiasm about returning to her hometown, posting all over social media about her excitement to play for Montreal once again.

In the packed theatre, the lights dimmed right on schedule to the whoops and cheers of the crowd. Geoffroy, the solo act of Geoffroy Sauvé, crept onstage through the darkness flanked by a synth player and drummer.

With no ceremony or introduction, they began a sleek lullaby of pulsating synths and eerie vocalizations. Finally addressing the audience after two songs, Sauvé never actually mentioned his band’s name—I had to check their merch table later to learn the deal on the unknown electro ensemble.

Their indie-electronica vibe—à la Passion Pit—eventually transitioned to a more conventional folk-pop groove. Sauvé’s keyboard was traded in for an electric guitar and he belted out catchy hooks with abandon, as opposed to his initial melancholy murmuring vocals.

At this tone switch, the synth player began acting as the bassist, his reverb and warbles ditched in favour of voracious bass lines through the keyboard.

Geoffroy bid the audience adieu after a half-hour set, and the crowd began buzzing in anticipation for Coeur de Pirate. Her full live band took the stage first—her keyboardist, drummer, and guitarist took up residence on the edges of the stage, circling the conspicuous gap in centrestage—home to a microphone stand and a grand piano.

Then Martin herself sashayed onto centre stage to thunderous applause from the crowd. She took a seat at the grand piano and began hammering out an energized version of “Oceans Brawl” to kick off the show—one of the English songs off of her new album Roses.

Massive projections of churning water illuminated the theatre and submerged the band during this nautical song, reflecting off huge tapestries hanging above the stage.

Because of the marketing for the show, I knew we’d be treated to the entirety of Roses live, and sure enough, all 10 songs were played throughout the show. While the majority of Martin’s work is sung in French, Roses is a departure from this and is her first bilingual album—seven songs in English, three en français. One single is even presented in both English and French; the French version is a bonus track.

While some of her diehard Quebecois fans may condemn this change, or even consider it selling out, I think it just demonstrates her versatility as an artist—her sound has naturally evolved over the years and her voice is as beautiful and unique as ever, no matter what language the lyrics are in.

After “Oceans Brawl” and “Undone” with Martin at the helm of the grand piano, she glided to the microphone front and centre for her whimsical ditty “Golden Baby,” off her 2011 release Blonde.

At this point she got to showcase her magnetic stage presence, performing ballet-esque kicks and strutting across the stage with flairs of modern dance, often throwing her head back at the height of a melody or falling dramatically to the ground.

Dance was actually the focal point of an interlude halfway through the show—as her band laid down a groovy and serene instrumental track, Martin whirled through a matrix of swirling pinpoint lights bathing the stage.

Her passion for experimental movement can also be seen in the music video for her sweeping pop single “Crier Tout Bas” off Roses.

After the hypnotizing interlude, Martin surprised everyone with a cover of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry.” Coeur de Bieber collab, anyone? Martin injected her own bashful flavour to the song and transformed a hyper-produced club jam into a heartfelt tune.

The crowd ate it up, and I was reminded of not too long ago when Martin released a cover of the Pokemon theme song for its 20th anniversary, and made me want to catch ‘em all again.

A highlight of the show was her solo piano rendition of “Saint Laurent,” the nostalgic love ballad dedicated to Montreal’s beloved boulevard, which was one of my favourite experiences of the night. Out-of-focus twinkling candlelight projections flitted across the stage to create a magical mood, and even in the bitter winter night, for a moment, it felt like we were basking in the grass on a Montreal summer day.

Another emotional piano-only song was “Way Back Home,” which she revealed was written for her 3-year-old daughter:

And I’ll find my way back home
Just to read upon the light that’s in your eyes
And if you ever feel alone
Just remember that I’ll be coming back

Martin claimed she might cry several times that night, playing to her first and best fans in her home city, and she was right. After each roar from the crowd, Martin appeared taken aback, often dabbing away tears and expressing her gratitude.

Her pseudo-finale for the night was the hit “Crier Tout Bas,” but the relentless screams of the adoring crowd brought her back out for the lighthearted fan-favourite “Comme des Enfants,” which she invited everyone to sing along: “Si tu connais les paroles, chantes. Si tu ne les connais pas, pourquoi es-tu ici?”

Coeur de Pirate concluded the show on a high note with “Oublie-Moi,” the French version of the infectious pop hit from Roses. She took a bow with her band to deafening applause and then stood alone for a few moments, wiping tears from her eyes and cradling her heart as the crowd brought down the house with cheers.

Coeur de Pirate has become one of Montreal’s most talented and charming exports, with multiple full-length albums and international tours under her belt. She sounded excellent live at Metropolis and put on a hell of a show—seeing her perform to a sold-out venue packed full of Montrealers was an amazing experience.

Experiencing Coeur de Pirate live should be a rite of passage for all music lovers in the city of saints, and I have a feeling it won’t be long before she’s selling out the Bell Centre.

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