Omar Apollo and Ravyn Lenae light up the Anthem
The two rising stars showcase their new albums
Ravyn Lenae and Omar Apollo, breakout artists of 2022 and two of the most promising voices in R&B today, returned to D.C. this fall to warm up the room with their undeniable charisma and impressive vocal chops.
Chicago-based singer Ravyn Lenae opened up the show, bringing her signature blend of R&B, soul and pop to the Anthem’s stage.
She was joined onstage by her touring band consisting of a keyboardist, guitarist and drummer, all clad in plain black clothing. Lenae sang at the forefront in a simple red dress and black boots, commanding the stage without any props or set.
The rising R&B star began touring with Apollo this year fresh off the release of her debut album “HYPNOS,” a 16-track journey of love jams and simmering breakup songs which is already shaping up to be one of the most acclaimed albums of the year. Her setlist was primarily made up of songs from the new album, but she also incorporated music from older EPs and singles.
She started off with an amped-up version of “Satellites,” a song off of “HYPNOS,” where her vocals floated atop a shimmering, syncopated keyboard riff. The entire set was supported by the band’s clever arrangement of studio versions of Lenae’s songs for a live setting. Subtle changes, like adding a more active drum part to several of the songs or allowing for seemingly improvised interactions between the band members, made sure Lenae’s more chilled-out songs had the proper energy for a live stage.
Another highlight of the show was “Venom,” which showed off Lenae’s vocal dexterity; her buttery riffs elicited cheers from the crowd. Lenae’s unique singing style consistently enhanced the performance, employing a slightly airy tone and breezy vibrato, making technical runs and high notes sound effortless.
Each member was bursting with smiles throughout the duration of the forty minute set. They danced and grooved their way through each selection, trading riffs, fills and licks, playing off of each other and enjoying each moment, a feeling that was passed along to the audience.
Lenae finished off with “Sticky,” a funky and infectious crowd-pleaser which ended the concert on a high note and set a high bar for the main act.
Apollo brought a special energy to D.C. that he attributed to the recent announcement of his first Grammy nomination for Best New Artist at the 2023 Grammys. The first generation Mexican-American released his sophomore album “Ivory” earlier this year to praise from across the industry for its exquisite songwriting, depictions of queer love and interpolation of Spanish and English language and music.
Apollo quickly won over the audience with his charm and ability to involve the crowd in the concert, encouraging fans to sing and dance whenever possible, having them fill in Daniel Caesar’s verse on “Invincible” and belt their lungs out to the chorus of “Bad Life.” His own dancing sealed the deal, unabashedly swinging his hips and twirling with the music.
Apollo’s musicianship was also on full display, often playing guitar and traversing in and out of difficult falsetto passages with his beautiful tenor voice. One of the best moments of the night came after Apollo shouted out the Mexicans at the concert before going into the corrido-inspired “En El Olvido” and “Dos Uno Nueve (219)” with a projection of the Mexican flag in the background. It was a touching tribute to Apollo’s heritage and two of his best vocal performances.
Through technical difficulties, Apollo kept the crowd engaged as the show paused to resolve audio issues with sound equipment, interacting with fans and even performing a song acapella while waiting to fix the problem.
Apollo finally sang his first major hit “Evergreen” to end the show. Known to even the most casual of fans, this song is an emotional breakup ballad which became viral on TikTok earlier in the year. For an encore, he closed out with “Go Away,” a hazy, wistful pop tune with an earworm chorus that had audiences dancing until the show’s final beat.