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Citizen Cope

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Citizen Cope
Live at the Paradise
September 21, 2005

By Marla Golde

A Citizen Cope plays with a five-piece band, including an organ and a piano, but his voice is so mesmerizing that it's easy to forget he's not a solo act. His music is a mixture of blues, hip-hop, and pop with a reggae feel; with beats so contagious that they'd make even the biggest klutz feel like she can dance. And if his melodies and rhythm don't get you, the haunting stories behind the songs will. Last Tuesday, at his sold-out show at the Paradise Rock Club, I was surrounded by excited Bostonians who clearly felt the same way (and passed many not-so-excited Bostonians on my way into the club, begging for an extra ticket. Suckers. Kidding!).

The opening act was a woman named Courtney Dowe. Ms. Dowe got on stage with only her acoustic guitar (and really cool earrings), but she had such a presence that it was like she was backed by a billion-piece orchestra and gospel choir. Her style is bluesy and folksy, and her voice filled every corner of the Paradise. In fact, the only bad thing about Courtney Dowe is the lack of information that can be found by Googling her (unless she's also a chiropractor in Michigan, but something tells me that's a different Courtney Dowe). That's why I don't know the titles of any of her songs. Anyway, look out everybody, because I predict one day Fenway Park will be packed with panting fans going nuts for her powerful voice. And her accessories (sorry, but I wasn't kidding, these earrings were cute.)!

Between sets, Bob Marley's Legend blasted on the Paradise's speakers. Also between sets, I noticed the club's security guard, who was wearing a leather vest and had a sweet handlebar moustache. Someone should tell the National Security Guard's Association to make that their official uniform. Did I mention there was a really long time between Courtney Dowe and Citizen Cope? That's why I have notes about the security guard's clothing and facial hair, and also why I was able to pick my Favorite Guy at the Show. He was a dude about 4'11'' wearing a huge backpack that took up about 75% of his body. He danced the entire time, I mean danced, and I mean the entire time, whether or not music was actually playing. Okay, back to the important stuff.

Usually at a show, it takes people a few songs to be relaxed/liquored up enough to dance and sing along. Not this one! Cope opened with the hypnotizing "Hurricane Waters" and the song had barely started before everyone started dancing and singing along. In fact, by the end of the song, Citizen Cope (real name: Clarence Greenwood. I bet if any bullies made fun of his name, they're kicking themselves now) stopped singing and let the crowd carry the song. I know, lots of bands and artists do that at their shows, but during the first song?! These were some devoted fans. And Citizen Cope isn't a brat, he wasn't all, "Hey jerks, this is my show!" instead he told the crowd, "Y'all have such pretty voices."

Citizen Cope and his band pleased the crowd for the next two hours, playing a set mostly made up of songs from the 2004 release The Clarence Greenwood Recordings, along with a few favorites from his self-titled debut. The highlight of the night was during "Pablo Picasso" (a song about a homeless man who's in love with a model on a billboard-how interesting is that? Can't you see why the show sold out and everyone loves this guy?), when the crowd whistled and screamed as soon as he played the first chord. Cope let the crowd sing the first two verses, which showed that his earlier generosity was not just an act.

At around 10:45, Citizen Cope did that thing that every artist does where they pretend they're done playing but everyone knows they're not. The crowd placated him anyway and screamed for more like they'd never been to a concert before. He came back out without the band and performed three songs solo, ending with a cover of Bob Marley's "Is This Love".

The set ended just like it began, with everybody screaming, singing, and dancing away. It's exactly how any band would like their concert to end, all smiles and people with their arms flung around their friends. I feel bad for those sidewalk people that never got in, I hope they went to a feel-good movie or something.

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