March 17, 2005

Mixtape Friday: It's Rex Manning Day!
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

I get sick of songs pretty quickly, especially when my roommate plays his new favorite tune every five minutes. Imagine how sick you are of U2's "Vertigo" after watching the iPod commercial a million times. Now imagine how sick of it Bono must be, and yet he still has to perform it at every stop on tour.Musicians usually resort to playing covers for two reasons: Either they don't have enough original material or they're sick of playing their own songs. When Jack Johnson appeared in concert on March 3 at the Virgin Megastore, he played a number of covers for a different reason: he couldn't remember the lyrics or the chords to his own songs.

Bay Area DJs Sway and King Tech host a radio show where they put famous rappers on the spot and test their memory of the lyrics to their own songs. It's hilarious to listen to Ice Cube struggle to remember the words to his own classics from years ago.


Led Zeppelin "Stairway to Heaven"
The first 250 fans who purchased Johnson's new album In Between Dreams were rewarded with a special yellow bracelet that allowed us to see Johnson perform. Instead of letting us wait inside, the sadists at Virgin forced us to wait outside in the bitter cold. At one point it appeared like Johnson had finally arrived, but to everyone's surprise, Paul Peirce from the Celtics emerged instead from a black Escalade to buy 50 Cent's new album, which was released on the same day. Finally at 12:30 p.m., an identical Escalade rolled up and Johnson popped out, smiling and tan.

He took requests from the crowd, but apologized when he couldn't remember the words to some of his older songs. Someone in the crowd jokingly suggested "Stairway to Heaven" and Johnson tried to humor him, but only managed to remember the first few chords. Johnson didn't seem bothered when he couldn't remember his own songs, but he was clearly frustrated that he forgot how to play the Zeppelin classic.


Charles Wright "Express Yourself"
This funky track from 1969 by Charles Wright, was later made famous when sampled/covered by Dr. Dre as a member of N.W.A. The uplifting song doesn't really fit on Staight Outta Compton, an otherwise nihilist gangsta rap album, but fit perfectly as a transition between Johnson's happy-go-lucky songs.

Ernie Mars "Plastic Jesus"
One fan nonchalantly set up a microphone to record the concert, which Johnson not only tolerates but encourages. His Web site even offers a place for fans to trade bootlegs of his live shows. Over the years these have included covers of "Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer," Robert Johnson's "Dust My Broom," Jimmy Buffet's "Pirate Looks at Forty," Bob Marley's "Trenchtown Rock," and Sublime's "Garden Grove." The only true cover he sang at this show was Ernie Mars' "Plastic Jesus," with its famous lyrics, "I don't mind if it rains or freezes/ Long as I have my plastic Jesus/ Riding on the dashboard of my car."

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.