Friday, February 11, 2005

Citizen Cope

Of Loyalty and Deviation
Showbox, Seattle, WA

I've been thinking about what people mean when they say "great show!" People obviously apply their own standards of greatness to any live performance, and if the performance falls in line with those standards, then it's all good. At rock shows these standards come in three flavors:

(1) band is completely faithful to the album (aside from song order) so the audience knows when to sing along, what the beat will be, when the swelling refrain comes in, etc.

(2) band sticks mostly to the album versions of songs save for the odd flourish and extra solo here and there. The audience feels like they are getting something more than they would by listening to the CD, but it doesn't veer all that much.

(3) band delivers something unexpected, like new songs, quiet versions of loud songs and the inverse, different instrumentation, drum-kit crashing freak-outs, and audience-led choruses. This one is my preference, but I'm starting to think that I'm in the minority.

Tonight Citizen Cope starts off in category #1, and only in the fifth song does he move into category #2. This is an effective strategy - by that point ANYTHING different sounds TOTALLY different. It's like that Andy Warhol movie when people in the theatre cheered when the guy rolled over. Clarence does have some stage presence, but he doesn't look like he enjoys touring all that much.

The audience here is a bizarre amalgamation of Mountain listeners, people who miss the Spin Doctors, and other folks who want to listen to music with a groove without going full-on into Hip-Hop territory. One guy in a shiny black suit dancing next to us prompts my friend to say, "all the guys in accounts receivable are very impressed."

It strikes me as odd that several Cope songs incite girls to sway and cuddle with their boys. While the songs are fantastic and soulful, are you not LISTENING TO THE WORDS? Why is a song about a penitentiary being on fire suddenly an Al Green-like makeout song?

The category #1 and category #2 people loved this show; Cope delivered on the promise of the great album. But we category #3 people longed for just one knocked-over mic stand.


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