he crowd at Iron City for Citizen Cope's 2020 tour was small but mighty, which is pretty standard for a Birmingham crowd (I’m from there so I’m allowed to say that). Not even a week-day show in the dead of January was going to stop Citizen Cope fans from braving the Alabama “winter” to see their hero up close and personal. For those unfamiliar with Citizen Cope aka Clarence Greenwood, his music is hard to describe using just one word. It is a mix of rock, folk, soul and grassroots that effortlessly blends together. This combined with Greenwood’s haunting vocals allows for a listening experience like no other. Greenwood is currently touring in support of the first album he has released in seven years (his previous album, One Lovely Day, came out in 2012). This new album, Heroin and Helicopters, has underlying themes of simplicity, minimalism and hope for a better and more rewarding future.
An hour and a half after doors opened, the lights began to dim and people started making their way up to the front. A tall man clad in a trench coat, work boots and a knit cap took to the stage, gave a slight wave and immediately picked up the guitar to play the first three songs without stopping. The entrance was so nonchalant that it honestly took me half a second to realize it was Citizen Cope himself and not just some random guy. An audience member in the front wearing a Citizen Cope shirt and singing along to every word was my biggest clue that I was watching the main event. After the first three songs, Greenwood finally broke his silence to say how happy he was to be back in Birmingham which was met with loud cheers from the audience. Besides a brief interlude to tell his “private jet story”, Greenwood didn’t talk with his audience much. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, he really let his music speak for itself. He played through songs effortlessly and his audience followed right along with him.
The first half of the show was all acoustic and after “D'Artagnan's Theme”, the full band was brought on stage and introduced. After this, the crowd instantly switched from mesmerized and silent to joyful and dancing, singing along to the familiar words. A standout song for the night was definitely “Son’s Gonna Rise” from Citizen Cope’s second studio album. Not only was this song a huge hit with everyone in the audience, it also contained a special moment towards the middle where the full band stepped back and it was just Greenwood and his guitar again, creating a haunting moment during an already haunting song. In the middle of “Sideways”, another song from that second album, people in the audience started turning to each other, hugging in swaying in an act of pure unfiltered community that was beautiful to watch. It is clear that Citizen Cope fans are pretty committed. They range in age, background and experience but under one roof, it’s the sound of Greenwood and his guitar that eventually brings them all back home.