March 17, 2005

Dedicated Citizen Cope fans wait outside in the cold
By Canyon Cody

Published in The Heights
Photo by Anna Schindelar

Singer-songwriter Citizen Cope passed through Boston during spring break at a moment of transition in his career. He is not yet popular enough to fill larger venues, but apparently too popular to fit all his fans into the small Paradise Lounge.

Many were unable to get tickets before they sold out and instead decided to stand outside in the freezing cold and enjoy the concert by peering through the bar's windows.

Citizen Cope deserves to be playing at major venues and will most likely never return to a stage in Boston as small as the Paradise Lounge, the small bar next to the Paradise Rock Club.

It was a special treat for his fans in the crowd who knew all the words and sang along, only to be tricked when Cope would slightly deviate from the lyrics on his album just to make sure everyone was still paying attention.

Cope performed songs from his phenomenal new album The Clarence Greenwood Recordings and his self-titled debut. He was backed by an exciting band that featured an organ player and a hyperactive drummer whose kinetic energy on tracks like "Son's Gonna Rise" contrasted Cope's mellow, almost sedate stage presence.

Citizen Cope's voice was full of passion and pathos, but his facial expressions hardly revealed a light in the attic. Cope's eyes remained thee-quarters closed through the entire show and he somehow managed to belt and wail without opening his mouth more than a sliver.

Cope did a great job of adapting his songs for the stage and avoided simply playing the songs as they sound on his album. For his encore, Cope returned with only his acoustic guitar, giving his band a well-deserved break.

His only cover of the night, Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist of Fate," came during the encore. He said he was never into singing covers, but Dylan's lyrics touched him, so he learned the words. "Now that I've learned the words, I might as well play the song," Cope joked in one of his brief interactions with the crowd.

His voice resonated in the small venue and his Bob Dylan-esque growl imbued his lyrics with genuine emotion. Cope's non-singing stage presence, however, was disappointing for he hardly engaged the crowd while onstage. The singer made up for it by hanging around after the show and signing autographs for his fans who had pillaged the Paradise for Citizen Cope promotional posters. As a musician, Cope is an impressive performer, but as an entertainer he lacks a certain showmanship that would distinguish his live shows.

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