Concert Review: The Power of One Voice – Martin Sexton “Winter Tour 2013”

The Power of One Voice:
Martin Sexton “Winter Tour 2013”
Date: March 28th, 2013
Venue: FTC’s Stage One in Fairfield, CT

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

[NOTE: Credit must given where credit is truly due.  The review that appears below was written by my good friend, Denise Dean, a longtime Martin Sexton fan (to put it mildly). She accompanied me to the FTC show so that I could better understand Martin as a performer and as a person. After the show, it became clear to me that it would make much more sense if we switched roles – she would become the main writer and I would assist as editor. Thanks for taking the lead on this one, D! – Dave P]


“Oh please, it’s not really going to be that bad. Weather men have worse odds than major league hitters these days.”

Man, did I eat my words.

On February 8th, a massive nor’easter buried New England’s section of I-95 and all roads leading to and from it under feet of snow. It also postponed the Martin Sexton show scheduled for the following night at FTC in Fairfield, Connecticut. Lesson learned: mock Mother Nature, and you will pay. However, the rescheduled performance on March 28th was well worth the wait.

If you have never been to a Martin Sexton show, quite simply, go. His live concert recordings give you a taste of his true talent, but even they pale in comparison to being in the same room with the power of his actual voice. Sexton has a range from the absolute top of the scale, strong, and angelic, all the way down to a gravelly-bluesy drawl, and he’s able to race up and down octaves with bewildering ease.

Fairfield’s FTC is a bare-bones, very small, and very intimate venue – one where all of the audience’s attention will be focused on the art of the performer. It is a space reserved for the brave where the artist can’t hide behind a fancy light show or special effects. And, given that Sexton’s shows frequently feature him on stage with only a bottle of water, a towel, and a guitar or two, he seemed right at home. As Martin himself quipped, “It’s like I’m just hanging out with friends, playing in my living room.”

The first part of the show was an all-acoustic set that frequently electrified the house with its quiet power. He opened with “The Way I Am”, a self-reflective a story of a distraught elder realizing that he’d made for himself quite an unlovable life. However, as is what often Martin’s way, the man proclaims he will just “change the way I am.” In the appropriately named “Happy,” he names the moment he can finally own this new ‘life is good’ feeling – and we watched “happy” dance across his face. He moved on with “Glory Bound,” which alludes to his own story of a 20-something kid leaving his real job, grabbing his guitar, and heading for Harvard Square. “Making the mistake he’s got to make,” he pops his case open, plays his heart out and waits for that first dollar. The lyric is solid testimony to the fact that, from the start, Sexton was firm in his faith that he was destined for greater good.

Upbeat, faster-paced songs often elicited mass audience participation through foot stomping and hands clapping. Martin had to rein the crowd in, cautioning that they would ruin the acoustic vibe, promising that the wilder stuff was to come later in the second set. He knows his craft and is passionately committed to giving his fans an amazing set, and will accept nothing less than perfection.

After a short break, he came out with his electric guitar in hand, and kept the crowd awestruck under his spell for almost two more hours. He danced around the stage, played beat box on his guitar, and trumpet, snare drum, and high hat with his voice box. Unlike the first set, he often invited the audience to join in: to sing the chorus, clap their hands, stomp their feet, snap their fingers – and make the show a shared journey. Martin was clearly convinced that he had excellent travel companions, telling his gathered disciples at FTC that if “amen” and “hallelujah” could be sexy, their chorus hit the mark. Since his earliest days, he has always invited the crowd in, and feeding off the energy he elicits, he seems to dive deeper into each song right before their eyes.

Riding the rollercoaster of his experiences was thrilling, and all over the map. Martin’s music is pure emotion, and song by song, he showed the steps and the missteps he’s made throughout his life, instantly connecting to us on a most human level. We watched the unforgiving tale of heartbreak after playing with the fire of your drummer’s girl in “Gypsy Woman. “ We followed him deep into the raw pain of self-questioning in “Where Did I Go Wrong?” a song that he admitted was perfect for FTC’s intimate space, and felt the torment caused by that unforgettable gal in “Can’t Stop Thinking ‘Bout You.” Interspersed between the tales of despair was the toe-tapping, “13 Step,” a classic tale of fine food on the road, “Diner,” and the funky, sex-charged “Boom-Sh-Boom ” and “Beast in Me.” Marty pulled out all the stops and treated long-time fans to all their favorites, often at the request of the loudest shouter in the room.

On this night, he wound down his curtain call with “America” reminding us of the good of our nation, but he left us with his rendition of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” This was no accident.

Every time Sexton opens his mouth he captivates his audience with his power, his passion, and his mean and soulful guitar playing. And Sexton’s lyrical genius has true staying power…especially when you realize what he’s actually SAYING.

Martin has always asked the listener to reframe life as a journey. His two-plus hour show showcased his own journey to peace: the good and the bad, the funny and the tragic, the pain and the glory. With his genuine humility, Sexton presents his challenge. He reminds us that life is a colorful tapestry of experiences, and that it is our duty, as residents of this great nation, to learn from each step and, furthermore, that we hold up a mirror, see who we are, and then, with our eyes wide open, “look what’s going ‘round.” And then we must stand up and do what’s right.

Sexton uses his voice to encourage us to find ours, to use it to do good, and to “spread peace all ‘round this world.” Maybe if we fused all of our voices together, they could be as strong as his. Marty’s voice is truly inspirational and, for that, we send peace and love right back ‘atcha, brother.


For more information about Martin Sexton, visit

Concert Review: “Two of a Perfect Trio” Fairfield, CT

“Two of a Perfect Trio” featuring King Crimson members Adrian Belew, Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto
Date: Friday, September 30th, 2011
Venue: FTC’s Stage One in Fairfield, CT

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

As King Crimson’s Adrian Belew, Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto took the stage at FTC’s Stage One, a keen observer of detail in the audience decided to point out “Hey!! You’re missing your Fripp!”  However, from the first note played to the final closing bows, the crowd that gathered for this stop of the “Two of a Perfect Trio” tour were enthralled and mesmerized with all-things Crimson (and many things non-Crimson) even if Robert Fripp, the ever-esteemed founder of one of progressive rock’s most heralded bands, wasn’t the master of ceremonies.

The “Two of a Perfect Trio” tour was conceived of during the “Three of a Perfect Pair” Camp, a week-long music camp that took place in mid-August that allowed its campers – musicians and non-musicians alike – to learn from and hang out with Belew, Levin and Mastelotto.  The resulting show allows two trios Tony Levin’s Stick Men and the Adrian Belew Power Trio to each perform a set, and concludes with a third “Crim-centric” set in which various combinations of each trio’s members perform together.

With bass guru Levin on the polyphonic Chapman Stick (as well as his trusty Music Man 5-string electric complete with his patented “Funk Fingers”), Markus Reuter from Innsbruck, Germany on a custom “Touch Guitar” of his own design and drummer extraordinaire Pat Mastelotto delivering a solid funky beat interlaced with a myriad of electronic percussive sounds, the Stick Men set the tone for the three-hour show with a mighty roar in the form of the instrumental “VROOOM” from King Crimson’s 1995 album “Thrak”.  The trio then dove into a number of Stick Men originals and concluded their set with an improvisational rendition of Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite”.  Despite Reuter’s stoic stance throughout the band’s entire performance and Levin’s sometimes goofy lyric and semi-spoken lead vocals, all three “Sticks” were clearly enjoying themselves and never failed to deliver virtuoso performances and music that, while progressive and complex, was always accessible and – for one particular audience member – reason enough to put on her buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-boogie shoes.

Adrian Belew and the other two members rounding out the “Power Trio”, longtime bassist Julie Slick and newcomer Tobias Ralph on drums, began their part of the show with a sampling of Belew’s solo work (including “Young Lions”, “Beat Box Guitar” and “Of Bow and Drum”) that had much more of a pop music feel than the thickly-layered and sometimes semi-schizoid songs that King Crimson are well know for – although the trio did manage to sneak in the seldom-heard “Neurotica” from King Crimson’s 1982 album, “Beat” which served to remind the audience that they aren’t just a trio – they’re a POWER trio.  As was the case with the Stick Men, Belew and company closed their set with a long-form instrumental piece, a section from Belew’s “e”, a five-part suite that Belew performed in tandem with a full orchestra in Amsterdam earlier this year.

With her long curly hair and bare feet, the Power Trio’s Julie Slick revealed that she can lay down a serious bass groove that perfectly accompanies the extensivearray of bending, swirly and occasionally aggressive sounds that Belew can deliver via his signature series Parker Fly guitar.  Drummer Tobias Ralph delivered all of the goods and then some.  Taking the place of Julie’s brother, Eric, for this tour, Ralph positioned himself behind a fairly simple drum kit (at least in comparison to Mastelotto’s) and pounded out rhythms and beats that would make former King Crimson and Yes uber-drummer, Bill Bruford, envious.

The much-anticipated “Crim-centric” final portion of the show opened with Crims Levin, Belew and Mastelotto doing spot-on renditions of latter-day King Crimson tunes such as “Three of a Perfect Pair” and “Elephant Talk”.  Other players from each trio joined in to accentuate other powerhouse Crimtunes such as “Frame by Frame” “Thela Hun Ginjeet” and the always-blistering “Red”. Even the ballad-esque “One Time”, featuring a subtle yet powerful solo vocal by Belew, managed to work its way onto the set list.

But the defining moment of the show happened in the improvised back and forth drum duel that prefaced Belew’s lyric in “Indiscipline”.  Instead of the serious and somewhat cold super-precision that was at the core of the battle between Pat Mastelotto and Bill Bruford when this song was performed throughout the 1995 “Thrak” tour, Mastelotto and Ralph brought a whimsical and humorous quality to their bombastic exchange of phrases and licks that would rarely (if ever) be seen at an actual King Crimson show.  As Belew exclaimed at the end of the song with arms outstretched in a Rocky Balboa-esque stance, “I LIKE IT!!!”  As did all who had assembled in the Court of the Crimson King.

The “Two of a Perfect Trio” Tour continues through until October 29th.  For a list of dates and venues as well as ticket information, visit .