Often in life we think there is somewhere we are supposed to be, and wherever we are, that isn’t the place. But what if life isn’t about where you’re going? What if it’s about the here and the now, the journey that it takes to get there?
That was one part of the message that Memphis born, singer/songwriter Citizen Cope sought to impart on his adoring fans on the night of Jan 15, but he and his music had more to say.
At about 8:30 p.m., the lights flickered, and cheers hailed from the private boxes of the Bijou. Then, the over head lights faded to black, the stage lights came on, and the man himself walked on to the stage and picked up his acoustic guitar. A down-to-earth vibe poured off of him and when he began to sing “One Lovely Day,” those vibes melded with mellow tones and a soul that is seldom seen.
His first 13 songs were stories, steeped in lyrical creativity and passion; themes of hard-times, faith, love and crime permeated this first set as his tempo slowly climbed. He unified his enthralled audience as he sang of the human experience and continuously pulled in our attention as deep, atmospheric rhythm danced from the strings of his humble guitar.
However, the visuals that accompanied his performance were far from impressive as that would have detracted from his targeted tone, but I think it would be fair to say that his fans don’t go to his concerts for the show. It was clear they went because they loved him and his craft.
After the concert goers refilled their drinks, during a short 15 minute intermission, he opened up the instrumental range by bringing in some friends of his — Jay on the drums and Chris on the keys and synth. This second set was a bit more pop-like. Rather than telling stories, the songs relied more on the beats and rhythms of the expanded cast of sounds. And to be honest, I preferred the first half of the concert to the second.
However, that isn’t to say the different direction lost much of what the first portrayed so profoundly. In fact, it was the 19th song he played, “Hurricane Waters,” that ended up being my favorite. The powerful use of the keyboard and synth resonated intensely, yet felt calming, if not audibly intriguing.
By the time he played the 25th and final song, he had the audience sing where he was silent, the crowd filling in the passion and soul that he had imbued them with through his music.
Citizen Cope didn’t end the night with a final song however, instead he spoke in verse. It was reminiscent of the themes that were most prolific throughout the night, but also carried within it words of advice.
The message that Citizen Cope wanted to leave us with was one of tolerance and dialogue, love and friendship, and peace and prosperity. Everything he put out came from the heart and was designed to speak directly to the heart. And it was with that tone lingering in the air that he said, “I love y’all. Peace,” before going back stage one last time.
If I were given only two words to sum up my thoughts and impressions of him and his work, they would be authentic and poetic.