“La heterosexualidad puede ser curada” (“Heterosexuality can be cured”) read an orange-and-yellow billboard in Zona Rosa, the historically gay neighborhood of Mexico City, to promote Omar Apollo’s May 31st visit to Auditorio BlackBerry.
It was a simple, eye-catching marketing strategy to promote a cultural homecoming for the 24-year-old son of Mexican immigrants. Apollo was returning to a city that spawned much of his creativity while making his latest LP, Ivory: Aided by his righthand creative director, Alberto Bustamante, known by the alias Mexican Jihad, the singer spent weeks perfecting his art in the city that Bustamante has described as a “hotspot for queer creativity.”
On Tuesday night, as fans yelled “te amo” and asked the musician to take his shirt off, Ciudad de México proved to be the perfect place to bring his two-month-long Desvelado Tour to a close. Apollo brought his signature swagger and sexiness to a venue way too small to contain the 6′ 5″ giant’s high-energy moves and rising starpower. With his unapologetic queerness, Spanglish lyrics, and unmatched funk and dance moves, this performance signified more than just the end of a tour — it also became a way of representing Apollo’s parents, both born in Guadalajara, Mexico, in front of an audience of young mexicanos ready for music from a kid well-connected to his roots.
After beginning his set with “Talk” and “Useless,” Apollo assured the crowd in Spanish that “Nos vamos a poner bien sexy” (“We’re going to get real sexy”) as he put on a cowboy hat thrown from the crowd and showed off his confidence and twirls while performing one of the best songs on his full-length debut album, “Killing Me.”
The crowd couldn’t have enough of Apollo’s sex appeal as chants of “mucha ropa” or “too much clothes” started to echo early on in the set, to which Apollo responded with an approving grin and moves that made the singer break a sweat (an even better reason for the star to remove the zipped-up, denim vest he wore to the show). “Ciudad de México, ¿Cómo se sienten?” he asked the crowd with the slight accent of a kid who was clearly raised speaking mostly English in the U.S.
That’s the thing with Apollo — like many kids of immigrants, he’s ni de aquí ni de allá, not from here nor from there. But he was welcomed with open arms as he commanded a stage in front of native speakers ready to support the queer, Mexican-American singer’s imperfect español. “Voy sa cantar una canción muy mexicano,” he said. That last word should properly be mexicana, but Apollo no se agüita and neither did the audience. In fact, those little grammatical errors and Spanglish moments as he connected with the audience made him even more human and lovable.
After cracking open beers with his band, Apollo performed his three full-Spanish traditional corridos back-to-back-to-back , crooning the heartbroken lyrics to his Juan Gabriel-inspired “En El Olvido,” followed by the corrido tumbao “Dos Uno Nueve.” His guitarist Oscar Santander and bassist Manny Barajas joined him for that more intimate part of the set, putting their Mexican pride on full display. Throughout the emotional lyrics, Apollo laced his Spanish tracks with gritos as he asked the audience to sing along. (And with these songs, they really did.) He topped off the Spanish portion of the set with his reggaetón fusion “Frío,” a reminder that when he experiments with his sound, good things do come.
Apollo slowed it down with songs like “Waiting on You,” “Evergreen,” and “Petrified.” During “Evergreen,” he asked the audience to “prender sus flashlights.” The lengthy sigh of the slow songs lasted only a bit as he kicked things off again with his Daniel Caesar-featuring track “Invincible,” which proved to be a fan favorite.
Apollo brought back the sexy dance moves — and an ear-to-ear smile viewable from the back of the venue — while performing his Pharrell-featuring track “Tamagotchi.” And the “mucha ropa” chants didn’t last long, either. As he performed “Kamikaze,” Apollo unzipped his denim vest to complete his show completely shirtless. (The gays in the audience — and trust us, there were many — were living.)
“Esta es una cancíon muy sexy para los homosexuals,” he said in Spanglish, before asking the crowd, “¿Dónde están los gays? ¿Dónde estan los gays?“
Apollo ended the night with a bang as he reprised “Tamagotchi” with his opener, a fellow child of immigrants, Niko Rubio — who commanded a small crowd early in the night with songs like “Amor” and “Love You Till You Hate Me” — joining him on stage for an ultimate, final rage. As Apollo sang “You with somebody, or are you cool?/I want your body, you want me too,” he was draped with a Mexican flag as his bassist Barajas waved his own green, white, and red with pride.
Speaking to Rolling Stone earlier this year, Apollo shared his plans to likely move to CD.MX after the tour, “probably just to chill,” but also to reinvigorate his creativity as he begins his ascent to complete stardom. On another level, it’s about connecting more deeply with a culture his family only seemingly left behind when they moved to Indiana before the singer was born. Last night at Auditorio BlackBerry, it was clear he’s comfortable and welcomed here.