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Citizen Cope knocks audience "Sideways"

Until last Wednesday night, I thought I was the only one raised on Citizen Cope’s “Sideways.” It was the first track on the first mixed CD that my first boyfriend gave to me. Despite this trite introduction, I came to realize it is a love song our entire generation can identify with. Clarence Greenwood’s haunting voice brings out breathtaking levels of emotion in the ballad, expressing a love that knocks audiences off their feet.

Citizen Cope, the stage name of Clarence Greenwood’s one man show, originated in Memphis, Tenn. roughly 10 years ago. Self-described as a “child of the ‘70s”, Citizen Cope’s songs invoke messages of peace, nonviolent protest, salvation and self-healing. Greenwood brought his gripping blend of bluegrass, soul folk and rock music to the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville last week.

The show was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., but thanks to the usual concert business of constructing the stage and changing sets between opener and headliner, no one expected to see Greenwood for at least an hour and a half. To the audience’s surprise, however, Citizen Cope kicked off its show right at eight o’clock and played straight through for three hours. The Jefferson’s intimate setting and the extended set gave Greenwood the chance to take his time performing each song. Glowing in blue mood lighting and a green beanie, Greenwood kept his eyes closed soulfully sung every lyric of crowd favorites such as “Let The Drummer Kick,” “Salvation” and “She’s Gonna Rise.”

The swaying crowd burst to life when the set seemingly came to a close, but after a brief intermission in which Greenwood and his backup band went off-stage, Greenwood returned solo as the lights shifted to a gentle red glow. After thanking his fans and the city of Charlottesville, Greenwood launched into a three song encore.

The set culminated with the song I loved and knew so well, “Sideways.” As the crowd sang along around me, I got to reminisce about the days when I played it on repeat — to my mother’s distress — as a 13-year-old girl newly introduced to puppy love.

When “Sideways” came to an end, the stage lights dimmed and Greenwood waved and left the stage for a final time, though his glow lingered for a moment longer.