Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Citizen Cope and Alice Smith -- "Every Waking Moment" and "For Lovers, Dreamers & Me"

I got the chance to see Cope at Mr. Smalls Theater in Pittsburgh November 10th. His opener was Alice Smith from NYC. The place was absolutely packed and not 40-something friendly in terms of navigation or hearing your friend standing a foot away. Otherwise, a really fabulous show in a great space.

Rusted Root band member Liz Berlin owns Mr. Smalls with her husband and they made a great effort to restore a church to performance-worthy levels. They used old doors as sound bevels on the walls above and a cadre of sound deadeners on the overhead structure to increase the ambient sound. If they can bar the unruly twenty-somethings shouting out "COPE COPE COPE" throughout the show, it would be truly world class. All kidding aside, it's a great space. They also have an actual recording studio that's been well-used.

Theresa and I broused the tour merchandise table for a few moments before an older woman spoke up, enthusiastically recommending Alice Smith's newest CD.

"Have you heard her?" we asked.

"Oh yes! She's really good. You'll love her! I know her personally" the woman responded.

In retrospect, we realized the woman was probably her mother. And, you know what? She was right! Alice Smith is the greatest find we've had this year. She is a little bit Macy Gray and a little bit Fiona Apple and a just a smidge of Aretha Franklin. She soars across four octave ranges and winds in and out of Violent Femmes backbeats fused with R&B, gospel, and jazz with fresh lyrics and emotion rarely captured in a voice. Her CD is really good and offers a different view with each listen. There are many musical layers to it and hidden vocal gems. It's quite simply NUTS good.

Cope introduced her as the "freshest musician he's heard in a very long time" and we'd have to agree. The audience was unsure at first; hooked into her infectuous vibe and seering vocals after two songs. I highly recommend her. Two thumbs up. Enthusiastically. Vehemently. Non-stop in the CD-player, you'll love her, buy-it and get it on ... yes. She's under the radar for now but not for long. Her live performance using Cope's band was unbelievable. She obviously LOVES what she's doing every minute of the performance. Alice Smith is up for 'Female Artist of the Year' in the PLUG: Independent Music Awards! She deserves it! Word had it she just signed with Sony.

Cope performed in his usual laid-back style. Reserved for the most part and letting his music and lyrics shine. Clarence Greenwood is not one to say a lot other than to thank the audience for singing along to the more notable hits. "Awwwww ... that sounds soooooooo sweet," a typical aside. He brought Alice back out to sing with him at the end which was truly inspiring. She would make a great addition to his band line-up but will sail off to her own fame and fortune, I'm sure.

While I commented that "Every Waking Moment" was memorable but not on a par with his earlier releases, I have to say the CD has really grown on me. It stands on its own but recycles a lot of his earlier releases rhythms. It's okay. It's Cope, after all, and his band is excellent.

Theresa and I ended up huddling at the back bar, far from the main throng, at the end and it was a great perch to watch the Cope fans and slip out the side door after the show ended. Clarence never fails to perform and has never disappointed. Alice was an extra-added bonus. HURRAH!


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