Pop: Organic Omar

Omar Jazz Cafe, London
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Whether you see Omar Lye Fook as a purveyor of swingbeat, nu-classic soul or acid-jazz, his musicianship and preference for organically-generated sounds have always lent him more credibility than his peers. With a hairstyle redolent of an inverted paintbrush, and a silver hoop piercing his left eyebrow, his image is equally arresting. Perhaps the compere's claim that we're in the presence of "London's very own soul God" is stretching the point, but in the Stevie Wonder fan club hierarchy, Omar's still several notches above Jamiroquai.

Backed by a seasoned sextet, Omar often resorts to cliches of the "let's see some hands" and "are you out there"? variety, but he's likeable enough to get away with them. Thus, when the posse at the front recognise the intro to "Sunshine", a shout goes up. Soon he has them waving their arms like windscreen wipers, and the set successfully builds on this simple "feel good" premiss.

Surprisingly, we get only a handful of songs from last year's superb album This is Not a Love Song. The absence of the Stranglers' "Golden Brown" is particularly conspicuous. We do get the title track, however, introduced by Omar's gorgeously scrunchy Moog synthesiser.

About two-thirds of the way through, a saxophonist and a trumpet player come on stage for "Say Nothing". With its half-Motown, half-blaxploitation feel, the song is the perfect vehicle for Omar's rasping, treacle-rich lower register. With Edwards, portly backing vocalist Chris Ballin and guitarist Andrew Smith all displaying fine voices too, the harmonies are tight and sweetly defined.

The two encores are performed solo, and it's here that the uninitiated can get a handle on Omar's talent as a multi-instrumentalist. His sparse acoustic bass and vocal version of "Falling" finds such a perfect groove that it seems as if he's relying on some internal metronome. How long Omar can sustain a career without another hit single is debatable, but he deserves our patience.

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