As the audience eagerly awaited the legend to appear, it was humbling to look around a room and see people of all varieties turning up to enjoy the same party. From the graying veteran who positioned himself firmly in front of the stage with the aid of his ‘walking’ stick (dancing would be just as apt), to a more younger twenty-something equally as loyal in their fandom; the generations being represented were a great testament to the consistency and originality Omar has managed to achieve throughout his career. His restoration to the Jazz Café stage in its 25th year, along with the cross-generational audience, was a suitable way of showing the strength of the venue and the promise of more to hopefully follow.
Kicking things off with ‘Feeling You‘, Omar and his band set the tone with tight drum and guitar licks, the front man even treated us with a taste of dance moves that we came to see in full glory later. ‘Ghana Emotion’ followed, with Omar’s flawless falsetto backed with distorted keys and warm jovial horns, momentarily transporting the room into summertime.
Songs new and old followed including recent classic ‘The Man‘ and the smooth ‘Outside‘; the crowd’s memory was also tested and duly obliged as we sang along to Omar’s second single from 1989, ‘I Don’t Mind the Waiting‘. But another real highlight was throwback ‘Be Thankful’, previously recorded with both Erykah Badu and Angie Stone. No shoulders could stay still as the whole room grooved along to the catchy chorus. Whoops of appreciation were also extended for an excellent cameo from backing singer and Omar’s sister, Psalms Lye Fook.
Omar joined the performance on the synths for ‘This is Not A Love Song‘, and we all reminisced to ‘There’s Nothing Like This‘, played in the superb rework form written in collaboration with legendary bassist, Pino Palladino. After the encore we were pleased to hear the live versions of Omar’s more uptempo numbers, ‘Dancing’ and ‘It’s So‘, which saw everyone’s rear end get a little closer to the floor.
After thirty years, Omar is still going strong with both recording material and a stellar live performance. He still waves the UK soul flag higher than any other, and long may he continue!