Reared in Manhattan’s (formerly) brutal Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, singer/guitarist Olamide trekked all the way downtown to Manhattan’s (formerly) artsy Greenwich Village to make his mark where Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone once played; The Bitter End nightclub. This live set of 7 tracks recorded there treads familiar love song terrain with occasional points of interest.
The crap-shoot part of releasing a live set is hoping your onstage banter and the magic of being in the room translates to people far removed from that performance. Live From the Bitter End avoids the former by keeping the chit-chat to a minimum–but is up and down when it comes to the latter. Olamide’s style is fresher when he keeps the concepts simple and lets his band carry more weight. “It’s EZ” is fun and bouncy, translating smoothly from the stage to headphones. When he returns to pseudo-serious ballads such as, “At Least Not Today” or “Dear Lamz,” the groans set in because you know this type of song has been done in a live setting before (and better) by the likes of Maxwell. There are flickers of potential on his closer, “My Life,” as he scats with his backing band and gives a nod to Roy Ayers’ famous hook.
Live From the Bitter End may not be the star-making turn on which the Bitter End hangs its hat, but it does make Olamide one to watch.
- Candace L.