British song writer Peter Hamill is a cult figure in the art-rock world. Chances are he will sustain that status on his first major American tour, with a whistle stop here at the Cellar Door.

Hamill first gained recognition as the guiding force behind Van Der Graaf Generator, itself a minor cult band. Both Hamill and the band suffered from underexposure due to a lack of touring, ineffective album distribution and so on.

Hamill's solo career has been followed by the same faithful, and often fanatic, audience that eventually popularized Genesis and continues to pay homage to John Cale and the Velvet Underground. The reasons are obvious. Hamill's major strengths, which he displayed last night, are a visionary earthliness (a bit laden with doom and misery) which dominates his substantial lyric ability and a charismatic performance stance that at first seems amateur but ends up enthralling.

Sometimes the heavy-handedness gets to be a bit too much, but there is an almost monastic simplicity to Hamill's music that demands attention for the lyrics.

Hamill, who ends his engagement tonight, is wonderfully abetted by a superb violinist, Graham Smith, a Generator alumnus whose musical coloring vitalized the stark verbal portraits that constitute Hamill's vision.