Downstairs mid gig at Kamio on Wednesday night where sweat pearled on brows and coats were swiftly removed, the space grew finite, the walls of the Rivington Street club seeming to hem people into a tighter mass with ears and eyes straining to get a full look at the man they call Omar, a musician of rare repute who has managed to carve for himself a singular niche in the world of UK music. It was at this moment that he played ‘There’s Nothing Like This’, his 1991 reputation-making hit. The classic north London crowd, responding as one with a cry of unbridled pleasure, were present for the sheer enjoyment of it all, dancing with abandon from beginning to end.
But for Omar, the evening was the launch of ‘Love In Beats’ (Freestyle Records), his eighth studio album and following on from 2013’s ‘The Man’. Wisely, he proffered a selection of the old and new, by this method allowing his songs to be seen as an evolving body of work in which the punter can link his creative birth to a contemporary stance. It’s through the clever weaving of the known and unknown melody that Omar has established himself over the course of almost 30 years as a respected composer, arranger and vocalist that (despite copping an MBE) has permitted him a freer and more honest approach to image making. In short, he hasn’t sold out, despite the plethora of offers. The new LP incorporates Caribbean rhythms, funk, zouk, jazz and spoken word and those joining him on stage to assist in its unveiling included Natasha Watts (sweetly raucous) and the rapper Ty.
Having worked with Stevie Wonder, Leon Ware and Lamont Dozier in the past, their influences have rubbed off, his band now beat perfect, and by the time he sang ‘Be Thankful (For What You’ve Got)’, a cover of the William DeVaughn classic on which he has dueted with Erykah Badu, it was time to ascend to the cool of the upstairs and to reflect on how an ageless Omar has remained true to himself and the craft to which he has admirably committed his life.