It takes some guts for an artist to open his show with his signature hit, especially when his career is in its infancy and his catalog is still growing. On one hand, it negates any anticipation for that one song for casual fans in the house. On the other, it gives diehards a chance to move past the obvious. When Omar Apollo did just that downstairs Saturday night at White Oak Music Hall with his for now set staple “Ashamed,” it was clear that most of the youthful audience resided on the more devoted end of the fandom spectrum, and there was plenty of fun to be had for the remainder of his hour long set.
Donning a baggy green sweater appropriate for current temperatures, a silver chain around his back pocket, and backed by a three-piece band, Apollo torched his way through the set’s high energy opening segment of “Ashamed,” “Kickback,” and his recent Spanish language single “Frío,” which ignited the crowd with his infectious take on Latin-funk disco fusion that would make Niles Rogers proud. Plenty of the kids downstairs weren’t old enough to drink, and they might not have recognized Rogers’ own influence on the artist they were so eager to see last night, but with every thrust, bump, and grind, Apollo’s fans were completely enraptured with the 22-year old Indiana native’s swagger. Anytime he reached to his falsetto rafters, they went into a frenzy. Something about Saturday night party boy high notes makes a crowd swoon.
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Apollo’s stage persona is devilish, mischievous. That he’s in on it makes it entertaining. His dancing borders on ridiculous, at once looking like Kung-Fu and figure skating with its respective kicks and spins. His voice never falters though. He’s equally at home in his croon (“Erase) and his falsetto (“Trouble) as he is those strange, almost gibberish, idiosyncratic pouting sounds (“Ignorin”) he likes to make.
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Despite being bookended by dopamine-rush inducing dance numbers, the bulk of his set consisted of the kind of romantic mid-tempo ballads (“Ugotme,” “Erase”) that make Spotify playlist curators sleep soundly at night and make couples feel like they can capture their own lightning, or youth, in a bottle. Perhaps the most appealing facet of Apollo’s exponentially growing star is his ability to maintain an audience’s attention, no matter the set list’s pace.
When he returned onstage for an encore performance of the ‘70s tinged “So Good” and “Hijo de Su Madre,” the groove was so palpable, you couldn’t help but crave the shine of a disco ball lighting up the room. Upon realizing there was no such fixture in the ceiling, Apollo’s occasionally glimmering wallet chain would have to do.