Thursday, May 20, 2010

Martin Sexton at Knitting Factory, May 18

Posted By on Thu, May 20, 2010 at 3:13 PM

My first backstage experience was thrilling. And so was the subsequent show.

For 20 minutes I got to chat with Martin Sexton, the singer/songwriter who, in his solo shows, puts out the sound of three or four musicians by playing rhythm and bass on one guitar and using an “electric voice” to emulate the sound of a third guitar.

Martin Sexton
  • J. Hernandez
  • Martin Sexton

By thumping his thick fingers on his guitar’s body and manipulating vocals to sound like cymbals, he also adds dashes of percussion to his songs. And I haven’t even mentioned his multi-octave range and powerful, clear singing voice. You could call him the Pavarotti of indie rock, if Pavarotti could wail on a guitar.

As we sat down to chat before the concert on May 18 at the Knitting Factory, I offered to not take much of his time. But Sexton replied that he welcomed my company in a humble, road-weary tone so I set aside my agenda and we relaxed into simple conversation about our families.

He missed his wife and their two-year old boy, he told me. And was struggling to convince his 24-year old son how important it is to attend an upcoming family wedding.

“Is this the son you mention in your song ‘Freedom of the Road?’” I asked, referring to the emotional tale Sexton wrote long ago about missing his son’s toddler years due to black-sheep-style behavior coupled with the rigors of traveling, performing and trying to make a name for himself. Yes, he admitted, the song was about his oldest son.

Photos were snapped, hugs were traded and off I went to join friends as openers the Ryan Montbleu Band took the stage.

Montbleu’s band wrapped up a polished 40-minute set, then, after a brief intermission, Sexton took the stage. As he strummed the opening chords of “Freedom of the Road,” a number of fans howled and began swaying to the rhythm. Soon came “Diner,” “Diggin’ Me” and a handful of other tunes performed with that familiar thundering voice and nimble guitar playing.

Martin Sexton and Ryan Montbleu, Knitting Factory, Boise, May 18, 2010
  • J. Hernandez
  • Martin Sexton and Ryan Montbleu, Knitting Factory, Boise, May 18, 2010

As Sexton sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” Montbleu and his band reappeared onstage and segued into the first three songs from Sexton’s new album, Sugarcoating. Next they brought the house down with a lively version of Santana’s mambo-inflected “Oye Como Va” and continued to delight with Led Zeppelin riffs from “Stairway to Heaven” and “Heartbreaker” sprinkled into a couple of Sexton tunes.

Wrapping up a set that went longer than two hours, Sexton and the boys performed “Black Sheep/This Little Light of Mine” and had the crowd dancing exuberantly into the late hours. We could have danced all night.

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