Baby Daddy

Live review of Anthony Hamilton at the Austin Music Hall, 12.5.2008

Anthony Hamilton as Clark Kent
Anthony Hamilton as Clark Kent (by Gary Miller)

Night and day, the difference, or rather indoors/outside: Anthony Hamilton raining slow jams inside the Austin Music Hall on Friday night bore little resemblance to the Motown review he motored outdoors at Stubb’s June 2006. Back then, the pimp of Hamilton’s “Cornbread, Fish & Collared Greens,” from his 2003 major label debut Comin’ From Where I’m From, still glinted in the native North Carolinan’s eye. New tunes from next Tuesday’s The Point of It All previewed the sounds of a more mature 37-year-old. Call Hamilton “baby daddy,” he did.

Pinpointing the man’s pipes approximates some R&B version of Trivial Pursuit’s music version. Sly Stone definitely, but Was (Not Was) soul man Sweet Pea Atkinson? Hamilton’s breakthrough, 2005’s Ain’t Nobody Worryin’ – the set whipped up at Stubb’s – at least in crossoverland, remains a minor masterwork of modern soul, hints of Bill Withers subsumed by the singer’s own musical identity. At the Music Hall, where only the ushers were white, Hamilton’s sincere, full-body vocal rub melted Comin’ From opener “Mama Knew Love” and Worryin’ embraces “Sista Big Bones” and “Can’t Let Go,” the latter dripping a bit of George Benson. For two full hours, the man in slacks and a tie brought his seven-piece band to bear on a slicker, more contemporary take on classic grooves, including the title track to his new album and late-set simmer, “Her Heart.” Could that explain a show ambiance akin to a warehouse fabric seminar?

Undeniable highlight came early on, before a brief interpolation of Sly Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” made it into one song, when Hamilton pulled out a lush rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Suddenly, election night came roaring back and the Austin Music Hall lit up like a Christmas tree. Anthony Hamilton, new administration of the old school.

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