Cedar Rapids, IA (January, 30, 2016)
“How exactly do you caucus, anyway?”
A fair question by Erik White, the opening act for Martin Sexton, given he was performing on the eve of the celebrated Iowa method of giving approval to candidates for POTUS. “You stand around getting bored” was the response an audience member yelled. I’m sure he was happy to be at CSPS Hall Saturday night, because boredom was certainly not on the itinerary.
Erik was quite a treat. He admitted to being a life long Martin Sexton fan, and it showed in things such as the sound of his voice or his guitar and melodic styles. However, when it came to lyrics, he was very much his own man. Solid, unpretentious lyrics couple with some unexpected melodies to get the sold out crowd so pumped up they gave Erik a standing ovation at the end of his set. That’s not something that often happens to an opening act, but Erik deserved it. I’m hoping he returns to CSPS Hall for a solo gig in the near future.
So it was that when Martin took the stage, his fans were even more pumped up for him than usual. Martin’s fans adore him. Martin adores the adoration. The result is a synergy that transforms his concerts into events that I remember even if I forget which songs he played. Martin’s shows can be unforgettably forgettable to me: I really can’t bring to mind a specific song I could cite words from, but I do remember the music.
That is what a Martin Sexton concert is about: a man who let’s the music in him come forth relentlessly, like a slow leak in a dike that grows and grows until it eventually causes a flood. This night he started off with a simple rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” (which is not your typical opener for a folk/rock concert). Of course, Martin Sexton is not your typical performer, and he knows it. So does the audience. So it all comes back to that event thing where at times you feel less like you’re watching a singer/songwriter perform and more like you’re in the presence of nobility holding court.
Some musicians who try to command an audience like that don’t have the talent to pull it off without appearing arrogant. Martin offers such a dazzling and mesmerizing assortment of musicality that most people end up loving the involuntary servitude to the talent that Martin brings on stage.
You can’t help but be treated to moments where you ask yourself (or maybe even the person sitting next to you) “Holy S***, did I really just hear that?”. You know you did, and you are so happy it happened because part of the event you are experiencing is that you realize Martin adores you, as a member of the audience, as much as his fans adore him.
Martin Sexton knows he’s a unique talent, but also knows that knowing it fuels what his fans love about him and his music. This was the third concert at CSPS Hall that I witnessed, and even if I can’t remember specific songs (other than the National Anthem) as clearly as I’d like, I know I was not disappointed by the event of being in a room filled with the sort of music Martin produces, and produces with joyful elan.