Is it just me or does Omar – there’s nothing like him – still look virtually the same…35 years in the game?
The answer is yes, and even more satisfying for this homecoming crowd at the Hideaway, is that he still sounds the same too.
And to do one of our finest exports justice, I’m referring to the quality of his voice, because he hasn’t taken the easy route – continuing to produce albums of great quality – three decades on from that early 90s breakthrough.
It’s no longer just about the “cold champagne wine”, as an intimate crowd of drinkers and diners in Streatham found out to their delight.
Playful and funny by turns, Omar was in bandleader mode, moving between a mic and his Nord moog, losing none of his trademark sound in the process. And what a band, a fantastic male 7 piece with no weak links. So much so that both of his co-vocalists almost steal the show and bring the house down towards the end with riffs on his own material or old school Luther Vandross.
He also pays tribute to recently departed Leon Ware, and plays William DeVaughn’s “Be Thankful for What You’ve Got”, which gets everyone on their feet. There may have been a cold April chill outside but we’re “ridin’ in the back, sunroof top” inside. Like Omar, Ware was a self contained artist and songwriter known for producing hits for other artists including Quincy Jones, Maxwell, Minnie Riperton and co-producing Marvin Gaye’s album, “I Want You”.
The set takes in “Music” from his second album, a bouncier summer anthem you’ll never hear, alongside new tracks such as “Insatiable” from his recent Love in Beats album, which compares with anything from his lengthy career.
He also avoids the trap of leaving There’s Nothing Like This to the end, playing it mid-way through the second set. Preferring instead to end on “F*** war, Make Love”, and its hard to argue when even the staff are dancing by the side of the stage.
As we leave, the cabaret tables are emptying but the man himself is signing merchandise and having fun with the crowd. Don’t call it a comeback, but Omar is home, and in a divided society we should be glad to have the healing force of his sound.