After 14 years of faithful service, POP Montreal has long since established and entrenched its position as the city’s go-to showcase for music legends and future stars. Thanks to this reputation, POP regularly attracts devotees and curiosos alike, welcoming them all with open arms. This might pose a problem for artists, should they feel pressured by a crowd of such wide-ranging interest and familiarity – but in front of a packed Metropolis on the festival’s opening night, Coeur de pirate cast out a wide enough net to capture everyone’s hearts.
The evening started off in a pleasant low-gear with a subdued performance by Félix Dyotte, former guitarist for The Undercovers. While his old band fit squarely into the third-wave ska scene of the 1990s (and would transform, soon after his departure, into The Stills), Dyotte’s current incarnation is all autumnal guitar and wistful vocals. Accompanied by Amélie Mandeville’s airy harmonies and keys, Dyotte played through a short set of tunes from his new self-titled record – his first as a solo artist. Although Dyotte seemed a little intimidated by the buzz of the swelling crowds, highlights like moody single “Avalanches” and Randy Newman-esque “Téléphones” provided a solid introduction to a performer re-inventing himself as his own man.
After Dyotte’s set came Coeur de pirate, taking the stage with a 4-piece band and the spooky “Oceans Brawl”. A fiery funeral dirge for a toxic relationship, the tune is one of 7 English-language songs on the artist’s new 11-track LP Roses. This is an exciting step from a performer who, until releasing an all- covers soundtrack for Québecois TV series Trauma, was known primarily as a francophone recording artist. Working for the first-time with European producers like Bjorn Yttling and Rob Ellis, Coeur de pirate (aka Béatrice Martin) definitely appears to be challenging herself to push the boundaries of her sound and writing – and the diverse crowd of a POP Montreal show is the perfect audience to witness and celebrate this breakthrough.
Accommodating both old fans and potential new recruits alike, the 90-minute set pulled liberally from Coeur de pirate’s new disc and her previous work, 2011’s Blonde and 2008’s self-titled LP. The artist’s new sound translates very well to the stage, replacing the record’s frequent electronic percussion with heavy, booming drums, electric guitar, and Martin’s grand piano. Aside from the quick breather of a piano-only mini-set (featuring adorable tribute “Francis” and an achingly pretty cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers”), Coeur de pirate also seems to be actively channeling her creative energy into expanding her personal performance. After explaining that this was his fifth Coeur de pirate concert, a fellow showgoer told me to note that Martin is more confident with her on-stage presence than ever before, often stepping out from behind her piano to dance, pantomime, and stalk across the scene.
During the slow groove of “I Don’t Want to Break Your Heart”, Martin took a moment to urge the crowd to wave their hands in the air, challenging them to keep it up until the end of the song – and the masses happily rose to the occasion. While the crowd was fairly talkative throughout the show (most notably during the piano-only songs), it was easy to tell that this wasn’t impolite chatter, but the buzz of a POP Montreal audience that was genuinely excited by what they were seeing. After encore-closer “Oublie-moi” and the band’s exit from the stage, the discussion continued, with fans both old and new collectively reveling in the experience, having just seen an artist who is surely about to do even bigger and better things.
Coeur de pirate setlist:
Pour un infidele
Interlude (The Climb)
I Don’t Want to Break Your Heart
C’etait salement romantique
Dead Flowers [The Rolling Stones cover]
Place de la Republique
Slow Show [The National cover]
Tu oublieras mon nom
The Way Back Home
Crier tout bas
Comme des enfants
Review – Dan Corber
Photos – Chelsea Gray