It all started with Béatrice Martin, otherwise known as Coeur de Pirate, sitting at the piano, joined by four musicians scattered around the stage. The lights were dim, and as the introduction of ‘Ocean Brawl’ swept in, sea-like visuals swam across the back of the stage, projected across the musicians. As the piano built the song, and Martin’s voice had everyone entranced, the drums joined in, the floor toms echoing around Scala.
From the very beginning the scene was set; with the visuals dominating the stage, a spotlight on Martin to illuminate her and make her stand out from the swirling patterns that encompassed the stage. It was captivating.
Another English song following up, ‘Undone’, saw Martin moving from the piano to the microphone at the front of the stage. She was mesmerising to watch as she danced across the stage; with bows, dips, twists, twirls, as if she were possessed by the music, adding to its energy with her movements.
Ink blots appeared on the backdrop as the first delicate notes signifying the piano introduction of ‘C’était salement romantique’ rang out. A calm stillness fell over the audience, all attention on Coeur de Pirate‘s sweet voice serenading the room. From the quietness of the start to the instrumental build as the song nears its end, this will always be a memorable one from her back catalogue, and a beautiful feature in the live set.
As a French Canadian, Coeur de Pirate‘s songs vary between being in French and English. Her music has the Montreal quality; the oppressive feeling of long cold winters that will never end, emotional desperation but always with a hint of hopefulness that things will get better.
Her banter between songs was very entertaining, and she announced that she would perform most of her songs in French, but her jokes in English because she is funnier in English. While the primarily English audience may not have had anything to compare to, they certainly would have appreciated her entertaining sense of humour.
‘Our Love’ was accompanied by a background of geometric shapes, fading into a white noise fuzz flickering and sparkling across the stage. The air was thick with grungy attitude, the sultry vocals on top of a percussive backing, the lights flashed and the patterns swirled in a dark cathartic peak to the set.
Throughout the whole set the backing visuals combined with the instrumentation and Martin’s vocals to really portray the meaning of her songs. It didn’t even matter if the lyrics were in French, everyone knew exactly how to feel and react at every point.
Martin’s vocals were perfect at every point throughout the night, as were the sound levels in the mix. In fact, Coeur de Pirate had perhaps one of the best sound mixes of any band at Scala. The mix of piano, keyboards, guitar, bass and drums was properly balanced for the room.
Opening the encore was the beautiful ‘Comme des Enfants’. Martin prefaced it by saying ‘If you know the words, sing-along. If you don’t know the words, what are you doing here?’ after laughter by the audience, she explained that it is practically French 101, but that at worst, mumbling along would be fine. It turned out that the audience knew the song well or could at least remember their high school French lessons; and as it built, it finished with a bunch of Brits singing along in the sweetest of voices, providing a beautiful chorus backing to the final lines of the song.
The night ended with Martin asking everyone to pull out their phones and turn on the lights, waving them above their heads, creating a sea of lights blinking back at the band who had provided such beautiful entertainment for the night. Coeur de Pirate has a fantastic back catalogue of music, but the live show provides so much more, taking the music to a whole new level. The show was absolutely memorable and everyone left the gig with an excited buzz, completely satisfied.
This Coeur de Pirate article was written by Jen Taylor, a GIGsoup contributor