R&B’S Anthony Hamilton brings tour, tale to Fox Theatre

Mary Chapman
Special to The Detroit News

When R&B artist Anthony Hamilton takes the stage Friday at the Fox Theatre, he’s promising his audience a poignant and personal affair.

The concert, part of Hamilton’s “What I’m Feelin’ ” tour, will include one cut from his newest 12-track album — the first in five years. And that song, “Walk in My Shoes,” reflects on the aftermath of his divorce last year from his wife of more than a decade, Tarshá Hamilton, he said.

“It is what it is,” Hamilton simply said in an interview of his personal challenges. “But I’m still relevant when it comes to music.”

The album also includes the hit “Amen,” a melodic love song that celebrates the joy a woman can bring to a man’s life. Most of the album, his ninth, was recorded in Nashville for the RCA Records label at the iconic Blackbird and House of Blues studios.

Also featured in Friday’s show are special guest vocalists Lalah Hathaway and Eric Benet.

Hamilton, a versatile Grammy-nominated artist, has lent vocals to performers including Nas, Rick Ross, Carlos Santana, Jill Scott and Tupac, and collaborated with the likes of Nappy Roots and Al Green.

Raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, by a single mother, Hamilton began singing at age 6 or 7. His experience in the church choir, he said, made him notice what music does to people. Still, he said he was slow to embrace his talent.

“I was a listener at first, the early years,” he explained. “I was a little shy back then. As I got older I started expressing myself more. Then all of a sudden, singing became something I had to do.”

And how. Once he started he was hard-pressed to stop. “My family thought I was just making a bunch of noise, keeping up a racket,” he said, chuckling. “I had to point my talent out to them.”

Hamilton began paying attention to a wider range of music, not just gospel icons like James Cleveland and Andre Crouch. But it was tricky: his grandmother lived close by, and she was very religious.

“At home I could listen to Luther (Vandross) and Marvin Gaye, but across the street it was James Cleveland. Once grandma passed, I think my musical palette broadened.”

He moved from the South to Manhattan around 1993, after visiting a couple of years earlier. That was quite the transition. “It was a real big eye opener,” he said. “I hadn’t seen that much activity in my life.”

Still, Hamilton’s gospel roots and Southern sensibilities continue to imbue his music. “I like to make sure that my music speaks to the spirit of people,” he said. “I like to express the love of the Lord without being preachy. That feeling of being in church, that clarity, I always want my music to have the same effect.

“And the drawl, the dialect and the personality behind it, all of that matters in who I am as an artist.”

Because of Detroit’s long musical roots, Hamilton said he’s always excited to play here. He learned early on that, when it comes to music, Detroiters are knowledgeable and demanding.

“Years ago when I first sang in Detroit, the audience was barely clapping, so I jumped off the stage and ran down the aisle, all while still singing.

“When I got back to the stage I did a roll and jumped up and kept singing. They thought I was crazy ever since,” he said, laughing.

Personal trials notwithstanding, Hamilton has always found solace in music. It’s where he’s most himself.

“I fell in love with singing as a child, I didn’t stop loving it, and I never will,” he said.

Mary Chapman is a Metro Detroit-based freelance writer.

Anthony Hamilton, with special guests Eric Benet and

Lalah Hathaway

8 p.m. Fri.

Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward, Detroit

Tickets: $48.50 to $103.50. olympiaentertainment.com, ticketmaster.com, the Fox Theatre and Joe Louis Arena box offices, and at all Ticketmaster locations, or call (800) 745-3000.