The first crop of singers from Star Académie in Quebec has not been at the beginning for a long time, despite what Stéphane Venne’s anthem says, which has stuck with them for two decades. It was rather time for reunions and nostalgia on Friday at the Bell Centre. Led by Marie-Mai, Annie Villeneuve and Marie-Élaine Thibert, the troupe that conquered the province 20 years ago offered a show filled with positive energy.
“And it’s not over,” was the message on the two large screens lining the Bell Center stage during intermission. The academicians had just performed the theme song of the show, with yesteryear choreography to back it up, but Wilfred, Marie-Élaine, Marie-Mai, Annie, Suzie, Maritza, François, Émily, Jean-François, Martin, Dave, Élyse, Stéphane and Pascal still had many surprises and happy memories in store for the large crowd who came to applaud them and sing with them.
A good half of the show was still to come, but the audience was already won over. It was, in fact, as soon as yesterday’s apprentice performers appeared, one by one, most of them in the stands of the Bell Center, each performing a piece of an appropriate song by Patrick Bruel, Place Great Men. The only adaptation: it was no longer a question of “a meeting in 10 years”, but rather “in 20 years”.
The rest was a mixture of songs released on the records of Marie-Mai (C’est moi, Sans cri ni chasse), Annie Villeneuve (Tomber de haute), Marie-Élaine Thibert (Le ciel est à moi) and Émily Bégin (Urban Legend), as well as covers drawn from French- and English-speaking repertoires.
The duo Marie-Mai and Marie-Élaine Thibert – Simply the Best, borrowed from Tina Turner – was particularly exciting. Dave Bourgeois delivered a very good version of Tennessee Whiskey, by Chris Stapleton, and François Babin remade Sweet Home Alabama, by Lynyrd Skynyrd, with which he was already a hit at Star Académie. Zombie, by Élyse Robineault, was much less successful: upon hearing it, it was hard to believe that she regularly presents a show in homage to the Cranberries…
The second part of the show began with the visit on stage of Julie Snyder, the one who had the idea of importing Star Académie to Quebec. Herself applauded as a star, she recalled that the reality TV show had allowed unknown singers, without any contacts in the show business world, to be heard and make a career.
This band was not their first show at the Bell Centre: they had already graced the stage 14 times together. A feat of arms undoubtedly unequaled in Quebec song and which is perhaps only close to one person… Marie-Mai, who remains to this day the biggest star to come from Star Académie.
The ex-academicians began the second part of the show by performing extracts from the famous first album of Star Académie before focusing again on covers. Martin Rouette, quite pale in the first part of the concert, stood out in particular on Uptown Funk, Émily Bégin did well with Bad Romance – with the support of the crowd who happily sang the “ooh ooh” of the chorus –, but even better with Where are the women?, by Patrick Juvet.
A cover show is almost always uneven and that of Star Académie was no exception. One of its great qualities is to have cast a wide net: it was a journey through decades of French, Quebec and Anglo-Saxon pop. And at its best, it was also huge karaoke. The audience generously accompanied Dave and Suzie when they covered On My Shoulder by Cowboys Fringants, in homage to Karl Tremblay.