Moving to Freedom, .Org(on)

Martin Sexton at the Fitzgerald Theater

A world with Martin Sexton in it makes me happy. What can I say about seeing him perform live? It was awesome. He is such a gifted artist. His songs, whether glad or sad, inspire me and make me feel good. Maybe it’s his sincerity that is so appealing. He puts it all out there.

Here’s a photo from before the show, just down the street from the Fitzgerald:

Mickey's Diner, St. Paul, MN

Mickey’s Dining Car in St. Paul, which seems fitting to include here given Martin’s song “Diner.” You might have seen one out in Minnesota…

Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, MN

I liked the Fitzgerald Theater. Small theaters are great for concerts. I don’t know if I ever want to see a band play in a stadium again. The last stadium concert I attended was Rush at the Target Center, and it was awful. What a terrible way to experience live music. Not least because people usually feel compelled to stand the entire time. Yes, maybe I’m old, but can’t you enjoy the show from a sitting position also? Is it so much to ask that I can at least have a clear line of sight from my seat thirty rows back? That’s even without getting into the usually horrible acoustics and generally miserable atmosphere. The Fitzgerald was so much better. Any seat on the main floor would have been a good one, but there I was in the front row.

There was great energy from the crowd, both during Ryan Montbleau‘s opening performance and during Martin. I enjoyed being part of this gathering of fans, sharing the experience. Normally I don’t care for crowds that much, but as the show went on I really felt connected with the audience in our mutual love for the music and the man.

A couple of times between songs, during the applause and cheering, a woman’s voice would call out, “I love you Martin!” And he would quietly reply, “I love you too,” or “I love you too, cousin.” I could have expressed the same sentiment. I’m so grateful to him for his music and for sharing his gift with us. I didn’t feel comfortable shouting out my feelings as clearly, so I settled for showing my love and appreciation by clapping and loudly whooping and hollering. He would acknowledge us with thank yous that felt quite sincere. I think he is genuinely grateful for the cheering and applause, even after thousands and thousands of shows.

Before playing “Black Sheep,” Martin assigned different keys to the balconies and main floor for our expected contribution with the chorus’s “Bye bye…”, and people cheered on the various groups as we rehearsed, as if exhorting each other to really be part of the song, and by that time of the night I was completely absorbed into the show. Bye, bye, black sheep… I very much enjoyed singing along, not self-conscious at all. We were all performing the song together.

Martin Sexton at Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, MN

Of course, it all went by much too quickly. I was unhappy with myself for the beers I drank, which distracted me with the need to pee and then finally missing half of “Glory Bound” when I finally gave in to my body’s demands. I also found myself over-analyzing the situation, consciously trying to be in the moment and thinking about how it was going. Also regretting that it was going by so fast and would be over soon. (And in retrospect, the experience is so hazy and dimly remembered now. Another reason to curse the beers? Or just the normal way that dreams recede?)

Despite all my self-inflicted trauma, it was great. Everything I had hoped for, and I’ll be eagerly waiting for the next show within a hundred miles of here. I did manage to get swept away with the performance, eventually. “Black Sheep” was super. By the last song before the encores, we were on our feet. (Which was fine. I’m not against all standing! Especially at the conclusion of such an emotionally powerful event.) I moved up to lean against the stage, and was thrilled at the first encore: “The Way I Am.” One of my favorites. I laid my hand flat on the stage, trying to draw inspiration directly from Martin through the conduit. I’d also like to change the way I am, but finding it difficult. Then he finished with a cover tune, “Purple Rain,” and it was also moving and powerful, and while I was there in the moment (I think), I also felt the night slipping away. I’m usually ready for a show to end, but not this one.

During the encore, from my vantage point on the far right, I noticed a woman sitting offstage, holding a baby in her lap, and realized it must have been Martin’s wife and new son. I thought about his incredible talent and the devotion of his fans, and about how things must be for that little baby. Your dad is a star and an inspiration, and you’re there to experience the energy and the love. Good luck “in the journey,” little Sexton baby.

Finally, here’s a fuzzy bootleg video I captured at the concert and posted on YouTube:

In Martin’s words, peace and love to you all.