Anthony Hamilton Plays It Cool at MSG

With one functioning leg and a busload of pure non-stop energy, Anthony Hamilton lit up the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden with a series of passionate melodies and magnetic dance sequences, as he headlined the “Playin’ It Cool” tour alongside Chrisette Michele and Musiq Soulchild.

Chrisette Michele

Chrisette Michele prepped the evening’s crowd for the dance fest that was to come. Though she played the part of coy songbird as she performed songs such as “Epiphany,” she brought out her inner comedienne at the tail-end of her set, paying a lovely, yet humorous, vocal homage to Anita Baker and John Legend, as she imitated both singer’s voices with the utmost precision.

Musiq Soulchild

Musiq’s set followed, raising the room’s temperature a couple degrees with hits like “Mary Go Round” and “Girl Next Door,” by incorporating a nice rock twist, thanks to a banging drum solo from a member of his funky all-female band.

With the audience grooving and two-stepping in unison, Musiq finally serenaded the packed crowd with his soulful staple, “Love.” The set ended with Musiq performing a medley of “So Beautiful,” “Just Friends,” and “Buddy,” and showing off a few old-school dances and the ever-appropriate B-boy stance, alongside his dancers and back-up singers.

Anthony Hamilton and Musiq

Following a 15-minute intermission, headliner Anthony Hamilton limped on from stage right (he tore his ACL during an L.A. tour stop), looking more dapper than a church pastor, and went right into a feet-stomping, crowd-pumping performance of “Cornbread, Fish, & Collard Greens.” His wife joined in from the audience, cheering on her husband from her comfy seat in the second row, while seemingly overlooking an older female fan, who intercepted her hubby’s wink during the performance.

But who could blame the fan for falling in love with Anthony’s vocal chops as he belted out tunes like “Can’t Let Go” and “Sista Big Bones,” where he personally escorted about a dozen women from the audience—young, old, skinny, and “big boned”—onto the stage for an all-out dance fest. He then charmed the audience with idle banter in that signature Southern twang, before finally settling down for a powerful, soul-stirring performance of his hit single, “Charlene.” But it was far from over. The crooner quickly brought the energy back up with a musical duet with his soul brother from another mother, Musiq.

The night would not have been complete without the self-described Southern gentleman performing the most fitting song of the tour, “I’m Cool.”

–Aishah Alassan