Dulcet tones: Ezra's voice steals the show

Ezra Hamilton
at Michael's Bistro
Wednesday, September 3

"It's sweet music to make love to"– or so said one particular art student in my vicinity as Ezra Hamilton and his group laid down song after song of slightly funky, soul affected rock tunes at Michael's Bistro last Wednesday night.

I keep running into singer/songwriter Hamilton­ a while back in the rock group the Belding Principle, a little while later in a mostly solo acoustic show or two at Rapunzel's Coffee & Books, lately up in front in the soul/rock/hip-hop group X-Porn Stars, and just two Fridays ago, at Orbit Billiards, where the two lovely young ladies I was with brought Hamilton over to our booth for a drink.

We quickly learned that his group was playing at Michael's Bistro the next week, I had put the show in my day planner (a piece of paper in my pocket), and 10pm the following Wednesday night found me watching the band set up.

After a brief instrumental build-up, Hamilton and his group began their first moderate rock tune of the night. Probably the most striking thing about any of Hamilton's groups (save perhaps X-Porn Stars, which has a pantheon of striking things) is the young man's voice-­ it most reminds me of the late-great Jeff Buckley's, whose bombastic vocal style is most evident on his group's live recordings.

But Hamilton's voice also has healthy doses of Lenny Kravitz soul and Ben Harper cool. That's not to slight Hamilton's songwriting style, which can be brilliant at times, but it's difficult not to make a voice like his the center of attention.

The drumming of James McLaughlin was right on, and the bass playing of Ben Jacobs– who made a habit of walking around the fret– was more than passable as the group ran through a selection of tunes ranging from rocking to more of a rock slow-jam.

Hamilton's Strat spent much of the evening in clean mode, with his distortion pedal coming out to play only on choice tunes– there were a number of high points in the first set of the evening, including one song I've heard before and taken note of because of its 6/7 time– but I have to admit I thought some of them seemed to blend into each other.

Perhaps the fact that the first set of the evening was the "Rock" set– followed by the "Funk" set for the show's second half– put too many similar tunes next to each other. And though this is a fabulous idea in theory for breaking up a show, in actuality it doesn't quite work.

Hints of Marvin Gaye, Motown Soul, and a half-time funky cover of SOS by the Police dominated the group's second set, on which a gentleman by the name of Ryan T. joined on lead guitar. Instrumental freak-outs resulted and were appreciated by the masses.

In my humble opinion, the funk set dominated its rock brother like scissors make a massacre of paper.