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.
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.
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.