November 4, 2012

At Long Last Love: Citizen Cope at the State

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If Citizen Cope’s performance at the State Theatre on Thursday could be described in one word, that word would be “long.” Citizen Cope –– a Washington, D.C.-based acoustic band, as well as the stage name of lead singer Clarence Greenwood –– took to the stage for almost two hours. The diversity of the band’s set left little to be desired, pulling almost equally from earlier albums like Citizen Cope as from the most recent, and significantly less-well known, One Lovely Day. Toward the end, he even gifted the audience with a cover of Radiohead’s “Karma Police.”

It wasn’t the length of the performance that was the problem; it was Greenwood as a performer. As the band played the first few songs of the set, Greenwood seemed disoriented and disconnected from the audience, only acknowledging their enthusiasm with a vague “thank you” at the end of every few songs. The ambience didn’t pick up until “Bullet and A Target,” from his 2003 album The Clarence Greenwood Recordings, brought the audience to its feet –– creating a strange mosh pit of college students and middle-aged parents in front of the stage, swaying and clapping to the beat. It was then that Greenwood cracked his first smile of the night and started to dance along with his fans.Such would be the rest of the show –– a string of slow and similar-sounding melodies, barely distinguishable from one another in lyrics or style, until Greenwood would decide to snap out of the lull and play a more upbeat song, bringing back the energy in the theater. Still, it seemed as though Greenwood wasn’t mentally present for most of his own concert, at times closing his eyes while playing and almost never appearing to channel the complex emotions inherent in many of his lyrics. The night felt sluggish and Greenwood did little to pick up the pace.Citizen Cope attracted an eclectic crowd that filled about half of the State Theatre, but almost all of them seemed bored –– checking phones and talking about leaving –– by the end of the first hour. It was then that Greenwood bade the audience good night and the band left the stage for over 15 minutes.Still, most of the crowd clamored for more and Greenwood eventually delivered. He returned to the stage alone, presumably for an encore, but that turned out to be a set that lasted well over 45 minutes. As he played one slow melody after another, the quickly-drifting crowd became increasingly insistent that Greenwood play “Sideways,” a hit from The Clarence Greenwood Recordings.Hearing their demands halfway through the set, Greenwood laughed and said, “You guys don’t understand the art of foreplay.”But the foreplay in the theater did not build the anticipation Greenwood perhaps had hoped for. The crowd — which had spent the majority of the band’s first set on its feet — had largely returned to their seats and some were even trickling out of the theater.Still, when the band finally did play “Sideways,” the second-to-last song of the set, it was everything fans could have hoped for and more. I could say it was an experience or just a great performance, but both of those would be wrong. As Greenwood himself could say, “There’s no words to describe it.”There’s something about Citizen Cope, not quite folk or blues or rock, something indefinable yet distinctly recognizable. Whatever it is, Greenwood finally captured it in that last song. The crowd, forgiving him his past transgressions, sang along to the popular love ballad, and the band ended the night on a high note.

Original Author: Kerry Close