Monday, June 14, 2010

Ryan Montbleau Band & Marton Sexton 5 June 2010 @ Nokia Theatre NYC

So I figured seeing Ryan Montbleau would be the way to kick off my 'official' summer vacation (on-campus senior parties nonwithstanding, of course).  It so happened that Martin Sexton was also on the ticket for the night's entertainment.  I had never heard any of his stuff before, but I figured the act had to be worth watching with the RMB on backup.

The show started with a set with just the Ryan Montbleau Band, and as it turns out, it was the best act of the night.  Maybe I'm biased, but from what I heard, Martin Sexton has absolutely nothing on Ryan.  The instrumentation for the RMB is much more interesting (poor Larry the viola player was stuck on stage during the Sexton bit with a cabassa) and the lyrics are less conversational and heartfelt.  Ryan always gives a personal performance and seems so at ease up on stage - tonight he managed to throw in some witty one-liners throughout into his signature tune, 75 & Sunny, that got the audience laughing.

The band followed up with Songbird, a new personal favorite.  There's a lot more going on in this one than what appears at first glance - I found myself listening more  to the reggae aspect of the song (and in that sense, the music itself) during the first few times, but I have come to realize it's the lyrics that really grab me.  You are the dance, you are not the dancer; you are the song not the one who sings. 

I know I brought this up during my last review of a RMB show (NYE, to be exact), but I feel as if it's worth mentioning again: I love the keys solos.  Maybe I just dig the sound of the jazz organ.  Jason keeps getting better and better every time I see him, and man, if I've gotta say one thing, it's this: that guy's always grinning and grooving.

Another random moment that I love during RMB shows: when Ryan is sitting on his leather stool with his acoustic guitar and swings it around to face the rest of the band - I feel as if they're just having any old jam session that we happened to have in on.  Rock on!

For the first time in a while I found myself completely unaware of what was going to happen next with the music during a fade out jam of 'Maybe Today'.  There was this intriguing moment when I had no idea about what was going to happen next.. it was wild. 

The band finished off with the ever-rousing 'I Can't Wait' and took a break before doing the Martin Sexton act.  I walked in feeling a little unprepared for this set - I had never heard any of Sexton's stuff before, but with Ryan and the guys backing him up, I had a feeling it would be good. 

Unfortunately I was mistaken.  Generally when one listens to a band for the first time, there's an immediate decision made if they are worth listening to - Sexton's rendition of 'America the Beautiful' was worth it, but my opinion of him slowly but surely declined throughout the night.  

While Martin Sexton is a 'fun' act, there are no complexities to his music.  From what I observed, there seems to be two different types of sounds that he uses for songs: the first has a country vibe where he employs the higher register of his voice and produces a loud, nasally sound which was not particularly pleasant to listen to.  The second sound he uses has more of a jazzy edge to it where he sort of sing-raps (very much like Jason Mraz) but sounds more like Jack Johnson.  

Now, if I wanted to hear Jack Johnson, I would go to a Jack Johnson show.

I didn't get the impression that he was a strong guitarist either - there were no guitar solos worth remembering - in fact I struggle to recall if he did any at all.  There were, however, vocal solos aplenty.  I will refrain from using the word 'scat' to describe what he did because scatting implies an intimate knowledge of the music and its chordal structure and a trained ear - in other words, scatting uses a lot more technique than what was displayed to me on Saturday night.  Martin Sexton howled a lot of oooohs using utterly predictable pitches on a distortion microphone to make it sound like a guitar solo.  Oh, and the falsetto he persistently used throughout the entire show?  Ouch.

Not to go all Negative Nancy on you, dear readers, but I can't say I will be going back for more Martin anytime soon.  

It's a shame that Ryan Montbleau isn't doing his own set this year at the Vibes.  Anyone want to start a petition?

Peace, love, and lava lamps,

ps. Sexton did this song at the end of the night, and I will admit that it's one of the jams I enjoyed.  Check it out for yourself.  (See what I mean about the falsetto and the Jack Johnson sound?)

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