It pleasantly surprised me to find out that Sexton was playing in the Bronze Peacock room of the Houston House of Blues. Usually acts of Sexton’s stature appear in the main room, but it’s a little more intimate a stage and I suppose he wanted to be a little more in contact with his audience than the main room usually affords the artist. I’m thinking I was right because early on in the show he told us since he didn’t bring a band; WE were going to be his band this evening and how much he was looking forward to it.
To be honest, I had never seen Sexton before this night, but I was really looking forward to it and was completely open to what he might bring to the stage. One observation..I don’t normally consider the House of Blues necessarily family-friendly..I dunno why, guess that’s just me. There’s no reason to think it isn’t, and I was impressed to see some parents with their kids pressed tightly against the front of the stage…some even sitting ON the stage as if to say..”Now kids..this is a great guitar player, songwriter and performer”. “This guy is worth staying up for!” I took it as a pretty cool endorsement and it made me even more ready to see Sexton play.
His reputation had preceded him and the stuff I’d heard on youtube and on his site knocked me out. It hadn’t been since the early Knofler brothers that I had heard such sincere playing and such a smooth vocal style. Sexton is a natural guitarist…and plays a lot of mean jazz bass on that guitar too. He has the uncanny ability to phrase a riff in a way that grips your collar and won’t let you go til the story is told and the statement is made. Drop a note here….syncopate a little there…like a jazz player trying to stay just this side of outside.
Like I said, this was the first time I heard Sexton so I was both surprised and not surprised to see him open with America the Beautiful. I kept waiting for a political punchline but there was none to be had…he really was sincere…refreshingly sincere.
And eclectic. He didn’t use a setlist, instead preferring to watch the audience and gauge the mood of the crowd on the fly, which was a large one, maybe 350 or more people packed wall to wall. Maybe it was because the crowd was so diverse and contained young fans and veteran fans that he skipped around so much. Everyone was tuned in to his show, but it wasn’t until he did Purple Rain that I felt the surge of total audience connection. Up until then, the hip-hop synthesis was incredibly well done, but didn’t seem to connect to the veteran fans, but he caught up with them when he ran thru a bevy of very well executed blues tunes like Where Did I Go Wrong, Gypsy Woman and Can’t Stop Thinkin About You”.
He didn’t leave the ballads out of the mix either. It looks like more than one wedding has included Love Keep Us Together in the ceremony. Opener Chris Tanner (who was awesome all by himself) came back on stage to do vocal harmony on Glory Bound, which is a kind of anthem that totally connected with the audience…with plenty of audience participation.
I’d like to see Martin Sexton come back around very soon and I would really encourage you to go see him. This tour is supporting the new EP release Fall Like Rain and continues his legendary guitar virtuosity and brilliant, gifted songwriting. Martin will not disappoint…ask the capacity crowd at House of Blues.
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