Accompanied by a pianist, guitarist, cellist and percussionist, Leslie Odom Jr. took the stage Friday at the McKnight Center to uproarious applause. The songs began immediately, starting the night off with the Hamilton classic of “Wait for It.”
After that, Odom brought out his own “Winter Song.” He then took a turn, singing both in French and English for “Autumn Leaves.”
Odom then went on with several Nat King Cole songs, including “Mona Lisa,” “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “Unforgettable” and “When I Fall In Love.”
Next on the list was “L.O.V.E,” which Odom dang in multiple languages including French, Spanish, Italian and even Japanese.
Odom then moved on to his “favorite” song of the night, a rendition of “The Sunny Side of the Street.” Odom took the mic and spoke briefly.
“I still find,” Odom said, “So many reasons a day to smile.”
Odom then sang a slow “If you just smile” with a smooth bass solo by Eric England nestled inside the Nat King Cole song.
Odom took a moment to talk about “One Night in Miami,” a recent film where he played Sam Cooke. Odom himself wrote and performed the song “Speak Now” for the film and performed it during his evening event. Right after, he also performed Sam Cooke’s famous “A Change is Gonna Come”, a song also featured in the film. To build up to it, guitarist and musical director Steven Walker played a long guitar solo to bring the energy in.
Shortly after, Odom performed other Sam Cooke songs, starting with “Bring It On Home to Me”, but sliding right into “You Send Me.”
The lights then turned all onto Odom as he sang Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” without an accompaniment. He then kicked the Hamilton flair once more, flying into “Dear Theodosia” and “The Room Where It Happened,” even making a jab at how he’s glad to be in person and not online for the concert.
“[I’m] so glad to be in the room,” Odom said, “and not in the Zoom.”
At the end of the night, people leaped to their feet and cheered as Odom left, but not for long as he soon returned to sing an encore song from the musical “Rent” called “Without You.” Odom didn’t leave the stage again without saying some words.
“Every artist spends their whole life,” Odom said at one point, “trying to get back to the point where their heart first opened up.”