Former Frost Festival performer Omar Apollo returned to the Bay Area on Wednesday for his “Prototype” tour. The R&B pop artist, who has been on the rise for years now, came to the San Jose Civic Center on the heels of breaking into the Billboard Top 100, peaking at 51 just two weeks ago. Last month, “Evergreen” received the TikTok treatment, becoming one of the top trending audios on the app as users posted heartbreak-related content.
Apollo and his performances have developed with more time in the spotlight. As someone who has attended three Omar Apollo concerts in the last three years, I can say it has been interesting to see how the crowd’s energy has changed and how his sets have evolved. For one, as Apollo has developed a larger repertoire of upbeat and energetic songs, his concerts have invited a lot more dancing — a trend that peaked at Wednesday’s concert.
“San Jose, y’all are really lit,” he said. “I’m not going to lie; I was tired coming into this show tonight but y’all are giving me energy.”
This was markedly different from 2019, when his repertoire consisted of songs from the much slower-paced “Stereo” and “Friends” EPs. As he has developed as an artist, Apollo’s performances have increasingly raised the standard, incorporating more movement and energy. Apollo has also found a way to thematically synthesize his songs for his tour sets. One example of this was when he coupled his love songs together and songs that conveyed longing together.
Apollo has always actively invited his Mexican roots into his artistry, with his latest album, “Ivory,” even having a corrido on it. His concerts often include a shoutout to his cousins and other family in the crowd. He’s also always made an effort to reach out to those like him; the crowd reacted strongly to him asking, “Where are the Mexicans?”
“I’m feeling really Hispanic right now,” said Apollo before singing three of his songs in Spanish, going from “Dos Uno Nueve” to “En El Olvido” to “Frio.” You can hear how the traditional Mexican sounds Apollo grew up with have influenced his musical trajectory. He played all these songs with a Mexican flag displayed at the back of the stage.
When it came to singing the collaboration “Bad Life,” Apollo asked the crowd to sing Kali Uchis’ backing vocals.
He admitted to the San Jose crowd that his usual gimmick is to ask them to sing Kali Uchis’ backing vocals once and then force them to sing it again, louder. San Jose, however, sang with more confidence than he is used to. It showed in Apollo’s vocals and stage presence: he eventually began to playfully synchronize his lips to pretend that he was Kali Uchis when the audience was singing.
As we neared the end of the concert, Apollo played “Mr. Neighbor,” one of his songs that relies more on acoustics and his vocals alone. It also happened to be the closer on his “Desvelado” tour. The crowd soon erupted in cheers for “otro mas,” or one more song. Apollo rushed onto the stage to play “Go Away” before the venue’s pre-set stop time of 10:30 p.m.
The one aspect of his performance that in my opinion should continue being workshopped is his dancing. One recent TikTok parodied Apollo’s five iconic dance moves. On the other hand, some fans have taken a liking to his “dancing queen” persona. However, these dance moves have not improved or varied over time; they offer an opportunity for further improvement.
His merchandise similarly suggests the current state of his creative team might be holding him back from further expanding into the mainstream.
Tour opener Rayvn Lenae is a great example of a singer who also possesses a prowess for envisioning artistic endeavors. She also proved to be a perfect complement to Apollo. The alternative R&B singer had a larger crowd than most openers.
Her set sometimes suffered from poor lighting decisions. The dim blue and red lighting fit nicely with her R&B persona, but there were times when the overhead fluorescent lights brightened the entire room up. I believe that the lighting was meant to emphasize the times she held a very long note, but its repeated sporadic nature came off as a bit too harsh.
With her amazing vocals, Lenae kept the crowd captivated. Both she and her band had a dominant stage presence that took advantage of the space. Lenae played many of the songs she worked on with Steve Lacy, who has also seen a recent bump in popularity as a result of TikTok. “Skin Tight” was one of her more recognized songs, in addition to “Xtasy.” She closed with “Sticky,” one of her older but more widely recognized songs.
Overall, the “Prototype” tour heralds a new era for Omar Apollo. As he breaks into the mainstream, my one hope is for Apollo to surround himself with more creative advisors.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.