Citizen Cope, an earthy entity that’s best heard in the open air, performed under the stars on an idyllic evening at Crossroads KC on Tuesday.
Although the ensemble overseen by Clarence Greenwood hasn’t released an album in three years and failed to score a mainstream hit since its major label debut in 2002, Citizen Cope managed to attract about 500 cheerful fans.
Greenwood and his four-piece backing band performed without any frills or special effects for more than two hours. The sparse format didn’t even allow for instrumental solos. The focus was on Greenwood’s homespun songs, his pleasing voice and the band’s leisurely groove.
The Brooklyn resident’s mumbled vocals and blend of R&B, rock and reggae make the Dave Matthews Band an obvious reference point, but Citizen Cope’s sound is even more like a contemporary extension of the 1970s output of the conscientious singer-songwriter Cat Stevens.
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Much of Greenwood’s repertoire consists of songs about peace, harmony and love. Yet Greenwood isn’t a run-of-the-mill hippie. Tuesday’s outing indicated that what initially seems innocuous is actually an understated display of subtle sophistication.
The easy listening icon Johnny Mathis would have been comfortable crooning over the band’s elegant arrangement of “One Lovely Day.”
Greenwood didn’t need to sing during a lush rendition of “Sideways,” a pained R&B song that was first featured on Carlos Santana’s 2002 album “Shaman.” The audience responded to its opening strains with vigorous singing. Greenwood eventually joined the spontaneous choir on his signature composition.
A note-for-note cover of Randy Newman’s devastating ballad “Marie” was a welcome surprise. A rendition of the playful character sketch “200,000 (In Counterfeit 50 Dollar Bills)” was the best portion of a four-song solo-acoustic set.
The gentle hip-hop anthem “Let the Drummer Kick,” the appreciative romantic ode “If There’s Love” and the pleasing reggae lope of “Healing Hands” were among the serene selections that dominated the set list.
Greenwood’s low-key demeanor — many fans displayed more energy than the artist — and extended tuning breaks between most selections were the show’s only faults.
The musicians snapped out of their pleasantly drowsy stupors during the uncharacteristically rowdy “Comin’ Back.” While the rock song was politely received, Greenwood seemed most comfortable when relaxing to his seductively mellow music.
More Than It Seems; Every Waking Moment; All Dressed Up; Bullet and a Target; Hurricane Waters; One Lovely Day; DFW; Peace River; If There’s Love; Let the Drummer Kick; Penitentiary; Pablo Picasso; My Way Home; Marie; Healing Hands; Theresa; Son’s Gonna Rise; Salvation; Brother Lee; Lifeline; 200,000 (In Counterfeit 50 Dollar Bills); Sideways; Comin’ Back.