The emergence of shows like Pop Idol and Fame Academy has given all of those budding George Michaels a chance to show off their talents. But while many people can sing, the true test is in the quality of the song.
Lemar is a very good example. Nobody can deny the man has talent, and along with Will Young, has one of the best soulful voices to roll off the reality show production line so far. Yet if his performance at Hammersmith Apollo can be used as a gauge, the quality of his songs are less impressive.
Compare Lemar’s predicament to Jamie Scott. Freshly signed to Sony, the support act on the night outshone his more famous headliner with a five-song performance that showed he not only has a silky smooth voice, reminiscent in patches to the aforementioned Mr Young, but also some wonderful songs to back it up.
He opened his set with the dreamy Love Song. Backed by just an acoustic guitar, he immediately won over all of the screaming teenage girls in the audience who were waving their light sabres and blowing their little whistles – as if they weren’t already excited enough as it was!
During Just, another song from his forthcoming debut album, if you closed your eyes you could have been forgiven for thinking you were at a Stevie Wonder gig, while Shameful – played at the piano by Scott – offered a chorus which immediately stuck in the mind as he delivered it in breathy tones.
Lemar had a tough act to follow. However, it didn’t seem to matter to his starry-eyed and love-struck fans how he performed, as they screamed their way through his opening numbers – a medley of Dedicate, Fantasy and Family Affair. And there were even bigger cheers to greet the dazzling array of vocal gymnastics that filled the west London venue.
It was interesting to note that two of the highlights of Lemar’s performance were cover songs. His rendition of Let’s Stay Together more than did justice to the Al Green soul classic, and he made a huge success of a much more unlikely cover, The Darkness‘ I Believe In A Thing Called Love, played with just a guitarist for accompaniment.
The Darkness cover was part of another medley, along with the Mario Winans song I Don’t Wanna Know and Donnell Jones‘ Freakin’ U, which ended with another deafening surge of screams as Lemar took his shirt off. The fact that he prompted them to “scream” beforehand hardly seemed necessary.
Unfortunately most the gig seemed like one big medley, as very similar songs seemed to merge into one another, most of them upbeat dance numbers rather than the more soulful songs which he seems better suited to. So when the ballad What About Love came around it did much to disturb the monotony.
Lullaby, penned in the Fame Academy house, was also a genuine highlight with its infectious chorus, although the fact that he claimed to have written it himself wasn’t exactly the whole truth. This was just one of many brash statements Lemar made as he strutted up and down the stage sounding like one of those pirate radio DJs which take over the airwaves when all you tuned in for was Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs on Radio Two!
Lemar certainly doesn’t lack confidence. “I’m so cool, I’m so fly, I’m so fresh!” he proclaimed during Fresh. You can be sure that his teenage fan base agreed with every word, but he might have to go away and come back with a revamped songbook if he wants to win over a more mature audience.