Twenty-year-old Charlie Sexton has been vilified for abandoning the formative roots-rock of his Austin adolescence. In fact, he really should be congratulated for exploring mainstream pop craftsmanship instead of further wearing out the already well-worn blues progressions that the Fabulous Thunderbirds and hundreds of other Texas acts mine ad nauseam.
Purists were no doubt in short supply for his show Saturday at the Palace, which the lanky youth nonetheless managed to fill. Sexton has the cheekbones and the chops to draw both salacious gals and their guitar-guzzling boyfriends. And, for anyone unimpressed with longhaired good looks or lead-guitar histrionics, the songs from his improved sophomore album--many co-written with such older fellers as Steve Earle and Tonio K.--are fairly mature for a barely post-teen idol.
Saturday’s was a hard-driving rock ‘n’ roll show--not startling but satisfying, ready for arenas but not too big for the Palace. As a singer, Sexton falls anonymously into the low-'n'-sexy Bowie/Idol camp but seems to be turning up the vocal grit. Guitar-wise, it’s a pleasure to hear someone so gifted play such succinct solos; those few bars of nifty harmonics on “Beat’s So Lonely” are about all you need to know about his prodigiousness.