I haven’t been to this venue before and quite like the layout of this almost semi-circular hall. I asked the guy behind the mixing desk the capacity and he says it’s around 2300. The balcony seats look full tonight but I’ve opted to stand in the stalls for this one and there’s a good-sized crowd down here too.
Anthony Hamilton is like an Al Green for the hip hop generation. Smooth and soulful but also capable of vocals that exude grittiness or sensuality, he’s welcome relief from the current climate of weak, anodyne R ‘n’ B coupled with lazy autotuned vocals that claims to have soul in this modern age.
He strolls onto the stage at the Indig02 to a huge cheer. “It’s been a minute” he says by way of hello as he grins at the crowd and takes the microphone. The last time I saw him play was August 2006 at the Hammersmith Apollo co-headlining with Angie Stone so yes, it has been a while.
His latest album “The point of it all” came out towards the end of 2008 so he’s now got three albums worth of material to showcase. His band, made up of two male backing singers, drums (Rashaad Jenkins), bass (Lemont McCain), guitar (Fred McCain) and keyboards (Kenny Leonard) strike up a fluid groove and the show begins. The huge “Coming from where I’m from” still sounds great and the crowd gives it the recognition it deserves.
I’ve often thought that the female equivalent of Anthony Hamilton is Leela James, so it’s a great coincidence to hear him do a cover version of Sam Cooke’s “A change is gonna come” – a song Ms James included on her debut album from 2005, also called “A change is gonna come”. Hamilton’s version is a haunting semi-acapella version that demonstrates his vocal range then merges seamlessly into one of his own songs.
Other highlights in his energetic set include a hilarious mime of his love for women with large behinds that is the perfect introduction to “Sista Big Bones”. He also jumps into the crowd and performs almost an entire song in amongst the cheering and dancing fans. Hamilton talks to the audience a lot in between songs. He has a friendly, easy going style of banter that displays a natural sense of humour. His songs are about relationships, loss and heartache but you can also hear his optimism and love of life shining through.
His performance is a throwback to the era of artists like Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers. He’s well worth seeing live if you ever get the chance but make do with his albums until then. Peace !