Seeing Martin Sexton perform to dedicated fans at the Neptune January 28th was like witnessing the realized dream of every over-enthusiastic busker the world over. That’s how Sexton started, and there’s still a lot of that open guitar case on the sidewalk feeling in his show today. He’s a one man band, playing guitar percussively, and singing guitar-sounding solos with a vocal processor. Just one man, a guitar, and a big voice filled the whole Neptune with music the audience knew by heart. The people were happy. They clapped along, they sang harmonies, they were Martin’s road band, if just for the night.
It can’t be overlooked that Martin Sexton is Jack Black from a parallel dimension. Right down to the stink face while playing licks, and the big dramatic voice. It’s uncanny. Vocally I’d put him closer to Dave Matthews. (That’s not really fair, I know, but it’s my gut reaction.) What he does on stage is wildly self-indulgent. His voice is varied, and his tone is great. His voice really comes alive in falsetto. He can do a lot with his talent, but when he’s doing the processed vocals lead guitar, while it sounds authentic, it’s just plain silly. At one point he was making a scratching sound on his strings that even Tom Morello would counsel him to avoid.
He wouldn’t be able to do any of this if it wasn’t for the fans enabling him. When he copped to one of his new songs being an inadvertent rip-off of a Zeppelin song, I was on his side. But when he used that as an excuse to go into ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ he burned that good will. There are rules against that kind of thing.
I know I’m giving Mr Sexton a hard time here. What I’m leaving out is the volume of the applause, the willingness of the audience to jump through whatever hoops he hung in the air. The people in attendance at the Neptune were showing Sexton lots of love, and he graciously gave it back. It was a heartfelt performance, and the crowd was in love with him. I wouldn’t take that away from him, or anybody.