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Live review: Anthony Hamilton at Club Nokia

November 10, 2011 |  1:11 pm

Anthony hamilton1
Ten minutes into his show Wednesday night at Club Nokia, Anthony Hamilton was already comforting someone. The R&B singer had just performed his song “Cool” — in which he suggests to a lover that they “have a little role play, baby, whatever turns you on” — and the proposition, it appeared, had ruffled a few feathers.

“Why you mean muggin’?” Hamilton asked a male audience member near the stage, referring to the man’s scowl. “I ain’t gonna take your lady. I’m-a help you keep her.”

One of soul music’s most consistent talents, this North Carolina native may also be its most considerate: a real-world romantic whose church background gives his work a prevailing sense of reassurance. Sex for Hamilton rarely serves as its own reward; there’s no R. Kelly-style braggadocio in his music. Instead, he presents love as a salve for any number of earthly struggles. In “Cool,” for instance, that role-play offer follows the singer’s admission that he lacks the money for a movie.

Hamilton’s down-home generosity pervaded Wednesday’s concert, the first date of a month-long tour running up to the release of his new album, “Back to Love.” Fronting an eight-piece band that channeled the grainy elegance of Al Green’s early-’70s records, he paid tribute to a partner’s positive influence in the falsetto-laced “Better Days” and described his efforts to “feed [his] family” in “Comin’ From Where I’m From.”

Near the end of the show, Hamilton sang the new album’s lead single, “Woo,” which he recorded with the hitmaking R&B producer Babyface. As with much of Hamilton’s material, the song freshens a familiar conceit — "Girl, you’re so bad, but it feels so good,” he sings — with an exceptional depth of feeling. At Club Nokia, he went especially deep: When the song was over, Hamilton struck up his band again for a seemingly improvised coda built around the tune’s central riff.

“Sorry, that was for me,” he admitted with a laugh after a minute or so. Hamilton was enjoying himself, owning up to the existence of an ego he’d kept hidden all night. “I worked with Babyface. I went to his house. I’m somebody!”

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-- Mikael Wood

Photo: R&B singer Anthony Hamilton. Credit: Sonya Ferrell

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