Omar Apollo at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles (Noor Aldayeh / L.A. Times HS Insider)
South Torrance High School

Concert Review: Omar Apollo electrifies Los Angeles at the El Rey Theater

Omar Apollo made his way to the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on May 5. This was his second sold out show at the El Rey and 13th stop on the Voyager Tour. The Indiana native, born Omar Velasco — but known by his stage name Omar Apollo — is the perfect definition of a rising star in the music industry.

Originally having started out on SoundCloud, the artist uploaded a few singles to Spotify. Practically overnight, these songs gained thousands of listens. Soon thereafter, Apollo released his debut EP “Stereo” in late May of last year, followed by his EP “Friends” this past April.

With a style that blends psychedelic soul, R&B, pop, and light notes of indie, it is apparent that Apollo has found his own unique sound. He has become another catalyst in the recently emerging genre of bedroom pop — the music of which is centered around an intimate and a unique-to-the-artist feel, often with a similar mixture of various laid-back genres.

Apollo’s lyrics analyze love through many lenses, exploring the likes of heartbreak, confusion, longing, anger, and infatuation. Since his introduction to the music scene in 2016, he has quickly garnered a large and loyal fanbase; and in February of this year, The Voyager Tour was announced.  

Apollo’s set was prefaced by opening act Ambar Lucid. At only 18 years old, Lucid is also only at the tip of the iceberg in her music career. Her performance however, was anything but one lacking experience. The Mexican-Dominican singer-songwriter performed songs in both English and Spanish, adding a bilingual flare to her soulful sound. With a heart wrenching voice and a ethereal stage presence to match, Lucid’s set encapsulated feelings of self reflection and growth.

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Soon after, it was Apollo’s turn to shine. And shine he did.

We began with Apollo’s band adorning the stage. Joey Medrano on drums, Manny Barajas on bass, and Oscar Emilio on guitar kicked off an intense rock-like instrumental which, after a minute, transformed into the opening notes of “Ignorin,” one of Apollo’s songs from “Stereo.” It was then that Apollo entered the stage as he began the opening vocals.  

Wasn’t a compliment, was it too obvious? That I need you, I need you.”

His stage presence was immediately enamoring, and it was incredibly hard not to feel electrified while watching Apollo jump onto and groove around the stage. Following the deep bass and sassy vocals of “Ignorin,” the similarly confident “Ashamed” began to play.

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We then transitioned to the more laidback “Kickback” and “Erase” followed by a somber “Friends.” In the song, Apollo tells a story of having feelings for someone who thinks he just wants to be friends. The band members all made their way to the back of the stage to sit amongst one another while Apollo stood under a spotlight by himself, further capturing the feeling of loneliness and misunderstanding that the song conveys.

The rest of the set featured a wide assortment of Apollo’s hits; covering a mix of singles as well as songs from both EPs, including “Brakelights,” “So Good,” and “Unbothered.” After this, Apollo played his last song of the night, “Ugotme.” This was the first single he ever released on Spotify back in 2017, whose lyrics reflect on trying to get over unreciprocated feelings for someone.

 

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Practically the second he left the stage, the audience began chants of “Encore!” and “Omar!” After a few suspenseful minutes, Apollo made his way back to the stage to officially wrap up the night. The shameless and hard hitting “Hijo de Su Madre” began to play as confetti cannons went off into the audience. Apollo delivered the song with the same energy and grace as he gave at the beginning of the set with “Ignorin.”

This finale lived up to one of the lyrics within the song itself:

“You ain’t never seen a brown boy like this.”

Apollo’s performance flowed like an exciting novel as he complemented the ever changing tones of each song; he skillfully transitioned from jumping, moonwalking, and body-rolling alongside upbeat jams to emotionally delivering his more vulnerable pieces.

What was perhaps most impressive about Apollo was the genuineness behind what he is doing. His backstory only further proves that everything Apollo is doing comes from a place of simply loving to create and share music. His performance isn’t one from a persona, but rather an exciting exemplified version of his own personality. On the same note, attending one of his shows feels more like jamming out to music with close friends than it does a carefully calculated production.

It was apparent watching Apollo onstage that the audience was witnessing a performer of a lifetime. Not only is his music spectacular as a stand alone, but it is brought to a completely different level when seen live. Although the artist has already made great strides in his career, it looks like that success will only grow exponentially from this point forward.

 Concert Review: Omar Apollo electrifies Los Angeles at the El Rey Theater
Apollo at the end of the encore (Noor Aldayeh / L.A. Times HS Insider)

Setlist:

  1. Ignorin
  2. Ashamed
  3. Kickback
  4. Erase
  5. Friends
  6. Pram
  7. Brakelights
  8. Trouble
  9. There for me (Interlude)
  10. So Good
  11. Unbothered
  12. Ugotme
  13. Hijo de Su Madre — Encore

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