Published Jun 01, 2004If anyone needed a reminder as to how anticipated these UK soul artists' Toronto gig was, the cry of "nine years" from a punter in the front row as Omar's backing band took the stage did the trick. Indeed, it was back in '95 that Omar was last set to do a Toronto show, but he was unable to perform because his voice wasn't up to scratch and he hasn't been back in the vicinity since. In the interim, despite a scarcity of his generally pricey and hard to find music in record stores, his popularity on these shores has grown by word of mouth and the show drew a sizable crowd of devotees, including hip-hop artists K-OS, Saukrates and Kardinal Offishall. Starting off with the stuttering jazz rhythm of "Making Sense Of It," Omar pulled judiciously from his five studio albums with the aid of his trusty keyboard. Showing off his versatility, he moved between reggae, Roy Ayers' "Everybody Loves The Sunshine" and the Stranglers' "Golden Brown" during his encore. While there were minimal interruptions and crowd interactions, Omar was preaching to the converted in his priest-like attire and had the full attention of those in attendance, courtesy of his voice, which was in "as good as on the record" form, and his intricate arrangements were expertly delivered by his band, showing why he's considered an artist's artist. Ivana Santili had earlier called him a modern day Stevie Wonder and she joined him on stage for a cover of William De Vaughn's "Be Thankful For What You've Got." Her energetic, assured opening set to a crowd primed by DJ Jason Palma's choice rare grooves made lots of room for interaction with a crowd she built up an increasing rapport with as the show went on, alternating between the trumpet and Rhodes keyboard, performing notables like "Sun + Moon=Tomorrow," "If I Ever Fall" with Wade O. Brown and tracks from her forthcoming LP, completing a night that fulfilled the high expectations placed upon it.