Written by Bill Whiting
Photos by Scott Preston
“There are no rules!” exclaimed Martin Sexton midway through his set on Friday night, March 9 at the 20th Century Theater in Cincinnati, Ohio. Indeed, Sexton, appearing before a packed house, tends to play by his own set of performance standards, as he delivers a stunning one man show every night in a different city. The result is a full dose of charismatic stage craft from a seasoned show man with songs that span from the beginnings of rock and jazz to rap, blues and fully flowered folk music. Beginning the concert with an homage to Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner ,” Sexton shot from the hip early on, delivering classic takes on his compositions, “Gypsy Woman” and “Diggin Me” from 1998’s stellar release, The American. Martin Sexton dominated the spotlight, encouraging shout out sing a longs, regaling the audience with humorous stories, and engaging in the fuzz based distortion of his guitar and vocals on an adjacent microphone stand while developing a scat singing version of the Led Zeppelin standard, “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” Eventually, Sexton had dozens of patrons dancing in front of the stage, waving arms in the air, and nodding their heads to the bubbling rhythms of “Happy” from the 2007 gem, Seeds, and the title track from the 1990 album, In the Journey. A unique bond has been cemented between Sexton and his following over the past twenty years, and a one two punch of “Angeline” and “Hallelujah” from his underrated 2000 disc Wonderbar was brilliantly focused, sharp and simmering with intensity. Touring behind the EP, Fall Like Rain, Sexton captured the social awareness inherent inside of the Buffalo Springfield cover, “For What It’s Worth.” Bringing the evening to a close, the singer connected to the back of the room with fiery renditions of “Diner,” “Glory Bound,” and encored with the title track of 1996’s influential masterpiece, Black Sheep. Exiting the Cincinnati venue to depart towards Busters in Lexington, KY, and the rest of the United States, Martin Sexton once again imprinted his indelible mark on the 20th Century’s stage and listeners, leaving all in awe of his vocal capabilties and instrumental prowess. Let’s hope he keeps breaking those rules, and delights Cincinnati once again with another visit in the near future.