Despite the sunburnt bodies filling out the room, fresh from the day’s park-centric activities, the subtle majesty of Omar Apollo is unfazed by the heat, giving off a cool, airy energy as he approaches centre stage at KOKO, his palpable presence commanding the entire in his direction.
Fresh from the release of debut album ‘Ivory’, Omar has been busy. His superhuman ability to catch the most fleeting of emotions in song has seen him work his way from the little leagues to now collaborating with Pharrell, Kali Uchis and Daniel Caesar. And brought him to London tonight.
Opening with the grungy ‘Talk’, he proceeds to deliver a masterclass in carefree R&B. With his set showcasing tracks in both Spanish and English, his ability to place candid emotion behind each word is unmatched. ‘En El Olvido’ sees him blend Mexican ranchera, Cuban bolero and American folk intonations to wind back the clock and create the scene of a porch-lit late night storytelling moment in the centre of Camden, while the punchy ‘Invincible’ is equally heartbreaking, yet filled with an urgent energy that sees him wince as he sings artfully about facing death head-on.
‘Hit Me Up’, with its breezy bass-driven melody, is a perfect mid-set pace changer. Omar swaps his dreamy singsong for a punchy moment of melodious rap, pinned down by a disciplined drummer. He commands such a graceful presence on stage, it’s hard not to draw comparisons to some sort of live-action Disney Prince — an unfathomable form of perfection, from his perfectly cropped pinky red hoodie to the way he introduces and interacts with his band. His empathy is crystal clear, and despite his claim of not having slept in 36 hours, Omar is the one waking the crowd up from their heat-induced slumber.
‘Tamagotchi’ rears it head twice, its first appearance in the late set elevating the temperature in the room dramatically, calling an end to the singer’s whimsical soul. However, its final appearance as a post-encore reprise, stirs up a frantic fervour in room, the crowd holding onto each word as if it was their own.
In the most part his set is moulded around ‘Ivory’, although his careful placements of the buoyant ‘Kickback’ from 2019 EP ‘Friends’ and the agreeably catchy ‘Ugotme’ from breakout 2018 release ‘Stereo’ are welcomed by clamorous applause.
His impossibly smooth vocals travel to the back wall of KOKO with the unwavering competence of a veteran performer, and when his flirty guitar licks are added to the equation, they only serve to prove that Omar is born to be here. He’s a bonafide people-pleaser, and a vocal advocate for his community, waving a Mexican Pride flag as his band tease the beginning of acoustic ballad ‘Bad Life’.
For some, it felt like he’d sleepwalked his way up. But tonight, his mellow aura proves its worth via the hundreds singing his words right back at him. As Omar Apollo hits all the right notes, his songs hit all the right nerves.