Material: The fun that comes with Andrea Hamilton's music is that, while the stage setup at the Hotel Café was apt to make you believe that we were in for some fairly regular singer-songwriter fare, in fact the tunes are pure pop. Nowadays, we’re accustomed to the word “pop” meaning something altogether more cynical and unit-shifting-focused, but when you boil it down, it’s all about creating catchy, instantly accessible and preferably relatable songs. This show promoted her new album Hope and Struggle which, amazingly, is Hamilton’s seventh full-lengther. Tellingly, every song she performed hit home hard, pointing to the act that Hamilton has been remarkably consistent thus far.
Musicianship: There were a lot of performers onstage, but each had an important job. In Cervantes and Ahmed, Hamilton has a solid rhythm-section backbone, allowing herself, plus guitarist Whaley and keys/samples man Kirz to fill the whole thing out. The backing vocalists add a lush quality thanks to some delicate-yet-gorgeous harmonies. Hamilton herself has a voice that is by turns powerful and sweetly quirky. Beautifully emotive, she takes a new song like “An Easy Life” and creates a sweeping, epic soundscape––something that wouldn’t be out of place in a cool indie rom-com.
Performance: The second stage room at the Hotel Café can be an oppressive place when it’s packed to the gills, as it was for this gig. That said, Hamilton’s ultra-positive on-stage personality was uplifting enough to transcend it. “There are a lot of songs on my new album about love––perhaps that’s because I got married this year,” she says at one point, betraying her own ongoing vibe of feeling generally loved-up. There are elements of Tori Amos in her performance, as she hovers between her keys and mic, putting her all into every note. But then there are other times when she’s simply singing, she could be in her own living room, and they are just as interesting.
Summary: There are songs in Andrea Hamilton's repertoire that one could imagine being performed on a much larger stage, perhaps at a big summer festival. Fans of artists such as Lorde would likely lap this material up––they just need the opportunity to hear it.
The Players: Andrea Hamilton, vocals, keyboards; Kesha Shantrell, backup vocals; Megan Tibbits, backup vocals; Tristen Whaley, electric guitar; Eman Cervantes, drums; Omar Ahmed, bass; Paul Kirz, keyboards.
Photo by Peter Zuehlke