Hamilton’s nostalgic journey through American songbook

Harry Hamilton is looking forward to performing his big ballad numbers
Harry Hamilton is looking forward to performing his big ballad numbers

Harry Hamilton, usually impersonating Freddie Mercury and performing the best of Queen at full throttle in a glitzy jumpsuit, is embarking on a new project which will showcase his vocal clout to perfection.

Hamilton is going on a nostalgic musical journey to perform the Great American Songbook alongside the Birdland Big Band with concerts at the Waterfront Studio, Belfast on January 9 and Ranfurly House, Dungannon, on January 10.

“Basically what I wanted to do was to show the evolution of the song-making style over the last 100 years,” explains Harry, former Upper Ban UUP candidate before defecting to Alliance. For now it’s about the music and not the staid world of politics, though.

“So the show moves from songs like Summertime, numbers by Frank Sinatra, great tunes from the 1950s and 60s and it evolves through to great tunes by the likes of Billy Joel, Ray Charles, Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder and Michael Buble. This is a musical journey through evolving moments in our culture.”

These nostalgic, big-band concerts are worlds away from Hamilton’s much-loved and vaunted ‘Flash Harry’ guise, the role he is best known for, and what is a truly storming tribute act to Freddie Mercury; Hamilton can perform the best of Queen’s anthemic setlist with gusto and an uncanny, spooky similarity to the original, iconic and dramatically mustachioed singer.

“Mastering the style of different songwriters and singers has been really challenging, but enjoyably so.

“I grew up listening to Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra - these are all songs that mean something to me and are close to my heart.

“I enjoy singing, but this requires a lot of vocal power and heft, it’s almost like you’re required to sing with your whole body.”

Hamilton’s father performed with showbands and Frank Sinatra was often playing at home - the singer understands the music of this era intimately and instinctively.

“To deliver these songs you really do need a lot of vocal force, a lot of attack. You need to draw from a lot of passion to get these numbers right.”

The first half of the show is described as “very jazz” and moves through tunes from the American music annals of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, some delicate with a lot of pitching and subtle chord changes, while, as Hamilton describes, the more modern offerings tend to be more straightforward in structure - verse, chorus and repeat.

“For me the real appeal of the music of this era is the characteristic story-telling. And then, also, it’s all about the power of the voice. I’m a huge Ray Charles fan as there is such a lot of soul in his voice. I like to try and emulate some of that soul-sound, but in my own original way.

“As an artist it feels great to be performing in a different style.”

l See Harry Hamilton perform The Great American Songbook on January 9 at the Waterfront Studio, Belfast (call 02890 334400) and January 10 at Ranfurly House, Dungannon (02887 728600). Contact relevant venue for tickets.