George Hamilton IV
Central Hall, Chatham, January 30, 1981
The latest tour of these islands by George Hamilton IV can be chalked up as his most successful ever. For the first time he has been allowed the necessary time on stage to show his devoted fans just how wide a musical spectrum he can cover. The show at Chatham was a sell-out, and that’s the way it’s been up and down the country.
True, George was playing many smaller venues this time, and that has enabled him to place his music in front of people who have never seen him on stage before.
The tour has also allowed the previously ‘unknown’ Carey Duncan to make her mark on the local country scene.
This young, raspy, but pleasant-voiced singer from Scotland has a great future ahead. Watching her on this tour, she certainly has grown in confidence enormously over the last few months. Backed by her own band, Front Page, who excel themselves both in the strength of their playing and the magnetism of their arrangements, Carey presented a highly individual and original act.
Her choice of material could hardly be faulted, ranging from Silver Threads And Golden Needles to Neil Young’s Love Is A Rose, and taking in some fine songs specially written by famed songwriters Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. A verse from either Raining In My Heart or Bye Bye Love before launching into the Bryants’ Talking To Walls would have helped the audience to know just who Boudleaux and Felice were. She went on to include her latest single, I’m Your Woman (also a Bryants’ song) and closed with Rocky Top.
A classic version of Olivia Newton-John’s hit Please Mr. Please provided three minutes of pure pleasure, with Carey’s powerful voice and some fine pedal steel off-setting each other beautifully. The gravelly vocals of Miss Duncan work well against the country music instrumental backdrop. That harsh, soaring voice, that at times can be the equal of Elkie Brooks, is going to carry this young lady a long way up the ladder towards the top.
The amiable George Hamilton IV had the crowd in his hip-pocket the minute he strolled out on stage, apparently happy and loose and quite casually dressed. The audience came expecting something special, and George did everything short of buying a round of drinks for the house to give it to them.
The first part of the act was an interesting run-through of his career to celebrate the 25th anniversary of him first entering the music business. Beginning with On Top Of Old Smokey and going through with That’s All Right Mama, You Better Not Do That, A Rose And A Baby Ruth, he led the audience through his career up to his later country hits: Abilene, Early Morning Rain and Canadian Pacific.
He then settled in to give an indication of just why he is such a popular favourite in this country. Streets Of London, Country Music In My Soul, Gail Davies’ Someone Is Looking For Someone Like You and Cornbread, Beans And Sweet Potato Pie, showed the wide variety of material he is prepared to cover. Good arrangements of One Day At A Time and The Last Farewell followed, and before you think his repertoire was on the square side, you have to know that when he sang the line, ‘When I get back to dear old England’, no one else could have made it so convincing or more meaningful.
The band’s precise and blending sound created a suave atmosphere for George’s polished, ever-smiling manner. Don Ange and Bill Clark, on keyboards and lead guitar respectively, held the whole show together with consummate ease, never obtrusive, but always finding space for moments of individual brilliance. For the first time George used an electric pick-up on his guitar which seemed to give him more confidence (instrumentally) and a much fuller sound, especially on the funkier tunes.
George’s performance was heavily laced with earthy warmth and charm which seemed to touch and engulf the entire audience, At the end he stayed behind for more than an hour chatting to people and signing an almost endless number of autographs. It was a nice touch and further evidence of why George is the best-loved country music star with British audiences.