Photo by Bryan Lasky
“We’ll be here a while tonight, I think,” said a grinning Clarence Greenwood in his characteristic southern drawl. The singer-songwriter behind Citizen Cope played an acoustic solo show at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall Friday night (April 21) to a jumpy, enthusiastic and rather vocal audience.
“The solo show, it’s a little more intimate,” Cope told The Alt earlier that day. “People get to see the genesis of where the songs came from and there’s a dynamic to the silence [of the show.]”
While Cope predicted a dynamic silence, he was clearly didn’t expect what Troy had in store. As soon as the last echoes of his gritting vocals reverberated from the expansive music hall, he was stopped in his tracks and set off course–sent into a fit of chortling laughter as his fans shouted out demanding song requests and a myriad of blurted-out questions, to which he was often taken aback but generously forthcoming.
“How was Brazil?” shouted one man after the heavy-hitting opener of “Lifeline.” The short stint of Cope’s tour, where he played a series of free shows was very nice, he murmured into the mic, but he couldn’t quite pick up Portugese.
“Did you learn anything?” “Obrigado,” but he pronounced it “obrigata” and the natives found it funny.
He’s had his 6-year-old daughter along on this tour which has made it interesting. “How old is she?” asked someone who–apparently–wasn’t paying attention. “SIX!” a room full of impatient fans yelled in unison, waiting to hear more stories from the stage.
He had an interesting flight on a rickety private plane in North Carolina. There was no alcohol on board.
“What’s your drink?” Basil Hayden’s bourbon.
Slowly but surely, he was able to continue, treating fans with favorites such as the hip-hop inspired “Pablo Picasso” and slow-strumming “D’Artagnan’s Theme”–an acoustic that seems to be destined a drinking song–that kept the crowd singing along, enraptured.
In the music, the singer-songwriter shed his shy and guarded persona under the attack of his audience and adopted the thoughtful, commanding stage presence of Citizen Cope. His quiet manner stole the attention of his worked-up audience, who eventually sat back contented.
The setlist was an expansive collection of each of his albums, from the most recent release–2012’s One Lovely Day–to his 2002 self-titled album, starring “Let the Drummer Kick” that broke up the acoustic performance with mixed backbeats and brought the crowd to its feet, dancing along the border of the stage.
The night’s greatest performances were awarded to these hits along with the heart-wrenchers. Cope has a talent for weaving connective stories with character-driven songwriting that has directed him for decades.
“I will carry you … until the city and the country ain’t divided,” he sang passionately in “Hurricane Waters,” another from the heavily featured 2004 album The Clarence Greenwood Recordings. The audience answered with cheers and hands raised in praise.
“I’ve been trying to get back to that,” he told The Alt, “Trying to find what the pulse is, to make that commentary on what’s going on in the community, in the country.”
Cope even threw in a new, well-received track in the mix, called “The River,” from his upcoming release. The artist has been working in his independent studio, Rainwater Recordings, for months and will put out a new LP at the end of the summer, tentatively called Heroine and Helicopters. The name is reminiscent of a piece of advice Carlos Santana offered Cope when they met for the first time. “Stay away from the two Hs,” the legendary guitarist warned. “Heroin and helicopters.”
Their collaborative track, “Son’s Gonna Come,” from Cope’s 2004 record, was a high-energy favorite of the night. Cope bopped and strummed in front of the mic while his opening performer, Mayaeni, lit up the song in bursts on Santana’s behalf–absolutely shredding on her lightning blue electric guitar.
The bouncing powerhouse of a singer put on a compelling solo show to preface Cope’s laid back acoustic set. Where she set out head-banging, crouched with her fingers flying along the neck of her guitar on her standing-ovation worthy closer “Love Me More”, Cope closed his show in a quiet, heart-melting “Sideways.” The hit was in high demand from the start, but he patiently held out, making it worth the wait. From around the hall and up in the balconies, the lyrics echoed out. It was the crowd who sang the first verses and refrain before he broke in and started it all again. There’s just something about some crooning vocals, an acoustic guitar and a simple love song. After a two-minute request for an encore, Cope obliged another six favorites, closing again with “Penitentiary,” and exiting the stage with applause for his audience, a quick peace sign and a heartfelt “thank you all, peace and love.”