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Cam Hicks

As a rainstorm washes over Camden, die-hard fans queue up for Omar Apollo’s sold-out surprise show at Roundhouse. Since his last London headline show at KOKO, last June, the 26-year-old has become quite the phenomenon. Between supporting SZA on her spectacular SOS Tour and going viral on TikTok, the breakout pop star has had quite the year. 

Roundhouse marks the singer’s largest UK headline show yet and, as his eagerly awaiting audience pour through the doors, his set hints at something special. Blinking red lights wash over onlookers and a spoken word introduction invites the band and Apollo, who’s kitted out in a glittering, black bodysuit. Beginning with his alternative R&B-influenced single ‘Ice Slippin’, the singer bucks the tradition by opening with the album’s introductory interlude. And, no doubt, the show setlist is sure to please with hits from last year’s Ivory, as well as his former 2020 mixtape, Apolonio. 

Entracing the crowd, Apollo seamlessly switches through genres, sewing together playful styles and stage presence for an effortless performance. The singer’s ease on stage is mirrored with his messages to his audience, as he shares advice and initiates energetic interactions. And, of course, there’s humour too; a trait Apollo has become known for online. He quips about getting “gaslit a little bit”, subtly referring to the backlash he received for his ‘3 Boys’ music video’. Later, he slows this down as pays homage to Latinx Heritage Month; before the “very Mexican” ‘En El Olvido’ – with colours of the Mexican Flag lighting up the room. 

Apollo riles things up with tracks ‘Talk’ and ‘Kamikaze’, before retreating back into his signature softpop sounds. As things slow down, Apollo’s stellar vocals take the helm, gliding between husky low notes and quick-fire rapping on ‘Tamagotchi’ to credible falsettos on ‘Killing Me’. With the show drawing to an end, the singer shares the slow-burning ballad ‘Evergreen’ with the crowd. Even the famous faces in the crowd – notably the Heartstopper cast – get into screaming the bridge back to the star. 

‘Go Away’, a danceable tune with melancholic lyrics, swells inside Roundhouse signing off the set with an upbeat yet bittersweet end. “If you don’t bounce in this song, I’m gonna cry when I get home,” Apollo jokes. But, for right now, there’s enough queer joy and euphoria in the room to wipe away the dreary weather outside. It’s a show of unforgettable community, showmanship and vocals. Omar Apollo has been the ‘one to watch’ for a while, but it’s clear that he has every intention to kamikaze his way to stardom.

GAY TIMES rating: ★★★★