It’s not often that a support act blows away an audience but Thabo did just that with a soulful set accompanied only by Aron Kyne on keyboards. His mid-tempo grooves revealed a voice that ranged from Barry White deep to Michael Jackson highs but the constant was a rich, well-aged classic soul voice. A forgotten lyric led to some quick-thinking freestyling before dropping right back in on cue and he seemed genuinely humbled by the rapturous reception and queue for hugs at the end of his set.
Arriving straight from a 1BTN live session McFarlane and her band were in high spirits on this last show of the tour with Zara dancing along to the solos. ‘Pride’ showcased her operatic range with Sam Jones’ drums and Jay Dawlish’s double bass furiously playing against Binker Golding’s dazzling sax runs. ‘Freedom Train’ brought a tropical warmth with deep dubby bass, sultry sax and Zara’s vocals getting the echo treatment. Peter Edwards’ electric piano flourishes, with wah-wah effects, added funk flavours while the drums gave out a solid reggae rhythm.
McFarlane showed she was far from a traditional jazz singer as she danced wildly and encouraged the audience to join in with her chants and dance moves. ‘Allies Or Enemies’ slowed the pace as she sang with just bass and sampled harmonies backing her, recalling Jill Scott’s ‘Exclusively’.
The covers are well-chosen reggae classics given a total workover. The Congos’ ‘Fisherman’ and Junior Murvin’s ‘Police And Thieves’ are reinvented and ‘Angie La La’ featured tropical bird calls from McFarlane and an extended introduction with Golding’s sax reaching amazing heights. Edwards’ solo kept the vocalist dancing as she laughed at the well-placed vocal samples supplied by Jones.
‘Feed The Spirit’ was delivered in a voice somewhere between Dianne Reeves and Grace Jones sung over a deep groove of squelchy keys and drum rolls. There were classic smokey jazz club ballads complete with the obligatory ‘fans’ talking loudly over the music.
The set ended with a moody ‘Fussin’ And Fightin’ that was reminiscent of The Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’ and UB40’s ‘King’, but the band return for an encore to play the classic Max Roach protest song ‘All Africa’. This was a stunning full-on fusion rendition that was the perfect end to an inspirational hour in the company of this outstanding vocalist and her talented friends. We look forward to seeing her again at the Love Supreme Festival this summer.
Komedia, Wednesday 28th February 2018