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Citizen Cope at the Commodore Ballroom

 Citizen Cope concert photo

Citizen Cope at the Commodore Ballroom, March 30, 2010. Kiri Rostad photo.

Review and photos – Citizen Cope at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, March 30, 2010

– review and photos by Kiri Rostad

Let me start this off by saying I am a huge fan of Citizen Cope, aka Clarence Greenwood. Really huge. In fact, leading up to the show, I checked the most-played list on my iPod and found, not surprisingly, that CC was right up there (oddly enough with Atmosphere, Black Star and Xavier Rudd). I actually counted down the days, hours, and minutes until the show. I even called dibs on shooting it weeks ago.

Why am I going on about this? Mostly so everyone can understand how painful it is for me to write this: Citizen Cope was easily the most disappointing concert I’ve ever attended.

The crowd was pretty much what I expected. Crowding the stage were eager fans, carefully guarding their position closest to the mic stand. Surrounding the main floor, relaxed couples occupied the many tables. In their usual spots, the rowdy prepsters hovered around the bars and downed peach-colored shots while their girlfriends chatted excitedly.  When the man of the hour finally took the stage, guitar in hand, the crowd roared in anticipation. Then it got weird.

Citizen Cope concert photo

Citizen Cope at the Commodore Ballroom, March 30 2010. Kiri Rostad photo.

Despite the lovely sounds coming from the speakers, and in theory, from Cope’s mouth, the crooner never seemed to wake up. His expression throughout the show was so sedated, it had me wondering if perhaps the melancholy tones of so many Citizen Cope songs are a result of a tour-induced depression. His eyes were constantly lidded and it’s hard to understand how the songs still retained their integrity when his mouth hardly appeared to move at all.

Still, the tunes all sounded great, which seems a bit curious. While I hesitate to make any accusations at one of my iPod’s most familiar artists, I can’t help but think many fans could have also done an acceptable job of swaying back and forth, feigning a casual strumming motion and halfheartedly (or dare I say, quarterheartedly?) lip-syncing.

Citizen Cope photo

Citizen Cope at the Commodore Ballroom, March 30 2010. Kiri Rostad photo

At one point in the strange night, Citizen Cope decided to switch from the much-used electric blue guitar to an acoustic. What’s really strange about this move wasn’t just the length of time it took (about five or six minutes) while he seemingly got reacquainted with the guitar, but that after turning his back to us and strumming away, when he did decide to return to the mic, he merely put the acoustic back down and returned with the electric.

Cope’s utter lack of enthusiasm for the performance was something of a shock.  As an avid concert-goer, I have come to expect musicians to put on a show. Isn’t that the point? We buy their CDs (or downloads, as the music industry finds its newest incarnation), T-shirts and, happily, maybe most importantly, tickets to their shows. Is it really too much to ask for the performer to actually perform? Apparently. But don’t get me wrong. I’m still a huge fan of Citizen Cope.

Looking back on the experience, I learned one crucial bit of knowledge. There are concerts you go to enjoy the live experience. Then there are artists you enjoy in the comfort of your own home, car or at the beach with those happy little portable speakers.

On a positive note, I happily participated in toe-tapping, head-bobbing moments of pleasure to classics such as “Let the Drummer Kick”, “Bullet and a Target” and “Pablo Picasso” (although, sadly, “Sideways” didn’t make it onto the playlist). By my side, oblivious or indifferent patrons who contentedly sang along. It was these attendees, in fact, that never really quieted down. By the end of the show, the rumblings of the crowd’s conversations actually rivaled the sound coming from the stage.

I’m not sure Citizen Cope even noticed, he was that detached. The only flickers of life I saw from him were the occasional moments he addressed the crowd between songs. It was strange to see him snap out of it and even smile while thanking the crowd for attending. Despite this, I still left with my fancy new copy of The Rainwater LP. Without a doubt, I’ll spend many an hour listening to the pleasant and freshly Cope-ish new sounds (check out “Healing Hands” and the reggae-infused “Off the Ground”). I just hope I can get the image of Citizen Zombie out of my head.

Oh well, at least the infamous Citizen Cope hairbun stayed intact.



11 responses to “Citizen Cope at the Commodore Ballroom

  1. Pingback: Ode to Cope – Citizen, Lighten Up « Guttersnipe: Music, Movies, Comics, Books, Fashion

  2. 11 years ago  

    I saw CC last night (April 14)at The Depot in Salt Lake and I couldn’t agree more with your write up. He was rather drab. Some friends of mine actually left because they were convinced he was lip syncing. The sound was great but performance was very dissapointing.

  3. 11 years ago  

    I went to CC in March and it was a great show! C G you rock!

  4. 11 years ago  

    I loved this show. He actually did play “Sideways” – great version!

  5. 11 years ago  

    I think you may be mistaking the “stoned factor” for detachment or disinterest. He usually plays high, which I believe is what gives his eyes that glazed look! I saw him in Seattle and thought the show was amazing. He was kind and appreciative but focused on playing the songs, not trying to have a conversation with the audience. That was what everyone was there to see. Also, I am fairly certain he was not lip-syncing — I’ve never heard anyone suggest that before.

  6. 11 years ago  

    Just seen Cope play in Detroit on the 20th and he was having all kinds of fun. Dancing, smiling, and just generally having a great time. Was my 3rd time seeing him perform and was just as good as the previous shows I attended.

  7. 11 years ago  

    I spent half the show last night trying to determine if he was lip singing or not. I had to close my eyes and just listen to stop focusing on it. After every song he turned his back to the crowd for at least a minute before starting another. He had pretty much zero emotion and never opened his mouth large enough to take a bit of food. I think he smiled once. However, he played all the songs I really wanted to hear, except Brother Lee and Penitentiary.

  8. 10 years ago  

    Are you kidding? I have seen Cope 5 times. He is amazing. I love watching how he is so into the music! He is just a humble guy. I don’t like going to concerts where it is nothing but a show. Most of the time the performace is to make up for their lack of singing ability. There is NO WAY he is lip sinking. I feel like this was just a desperate attempt to get someone to read your post! Citizen Cope is real music that doesnt need the overdone performance.

  9. 10 years ago  

    Be a critique of the cope or just get into the music and be quiet. A lot of the crowds they’re playing in front of make the guy want to go to sleep 🙂 … Most audiences can’t appreciate what he’s singing about anyway. They have no clue! Bunch of rich brats looking for the latest
    thing to help them feel
    hip and cool …

  10. 10 years ago  

    Be a critic of the cope or just get into the music and be quiet. A lot of the crowds they’re playing in front of make the guy want to go to sleep … Most audiences can’t appreciate what he’s singing about anyway. They have no clue! Bunch of rich brats looking for the latest
    thing to help them feel
    hip and cool …

  11. 9 years ago  

    I’m thinking about going up to DC this weekend to see him perform. Judging from videos on YouTube of him performing live, my best guess is that he is higher than a Cessna. His eyes are glazed over, his words are slurred/mumbled, and he’s kind of zoned out.

    If that’s what he’s about, then so be it. There are musicians that play for and to the crowd, and then there are musicians (like myself) who primarily do it for ourselves. A lot of musicians have their own ticks when they play; I, for instance, frequently close my eyes. It’s just a comfort zone for me because writing lyrics is like writing a diary, and that can be pretty intimate sometimes. Who knows, maybe being stoned is just his comfort zone when he plays. I just hope that he doesn’t end up on heroin like a lot of people do and end up dead.

    I see him as more of a coffee shop / smaller establishment type of performer…I think settings like that is where he’d be at his best. He’s definitely a really talented songwriter though and is up there with The Tallest Man on Earth in my books.

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