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Album Preview: Katy Perry Has Found Her "SMILE" Once Again

After a two-year hiatus, Perry’s sixth studio album is a triumphant yet authentic return to the industry stage.

Girl with Micro Braids

JANUARY 16, 2020

On the night of December 10, Boston’s Paradise Rock Club was buzzing with energy. At 8 o'clock on the dot, Silver Sphere bounced onto the stage, accompanied by a drummer who looked restlessly comfortable and a guitarist channeling the energy of a customizable Rock Band character, aimlessly throwing his body in punk-rock enthusiasm. Silver paraded the stage in white go-go boots and a sparkling blue mod-style dress. It was as if the entire outfit had been pulled out of 1964; Silver refused to conform to the expected image of a musician bearing her pop new-wave sound. She danced loosely across the stage, tossing her hair from left to right whenever she pleased, almost as if she was flirting. Embodying a persona that baltered somewhere between naive and careless, each word she spoke slipped between her lips - almost tactical, yet playful and childlike - never wavering from that charisma. She appeared to be a character out of this world, yet you couldn’t help believing that this was her genuine personality. Her exclamation of “I grew up in Boston, y’all” was met with the same enthusiastic twirls that carried her into her songs “boys r dumb! duh!” and “sucks 4 u.” Her lyrics explore love and its complicated tendencies, rooted in strong pop synths and danceable beats that flooded the venue for the half-hour set. She found comfort in the hands of the crowd, sharing the mic with outreached hands before stumbling into auto-tuned solos that cascaded through the club, periodically interrupted by her own laughter. As her set came to an end, it felt weird to watch the alien known as Silver Sphere skip and bounce off the stage. Her intergalactic, bubblegum-pop charm is one that is comforting but fun, and the show’s enviable, rarely replicated dynamic range of style and sound set the tone well for the amount of sweat and harmony that would be unleashed throughout the night.

After a 45 minute set change and a brief sound check, Alexander Glantz, better known as Alexander 23, jogged out on stage, accompanied by his drummer Tyler Matte (whose mother enthusiastically took videos and pictures of the boys from the second floor of the venue for the majority of their set). These two fellas made up the entirety of the band. Glantz wore an olive green and white striped t-shirt over a white long sleeve, blue jeans cuffed twice, and black Converse, completing his look with a black Strat guitar - an instrument that at first glance is antithetical to his genre. Most of his music is electronically based, but aided by the acoustic drum set, the guitar seemed to propel each song into fully developed pop-rock anthems, simultaneously highlighting the most addictive and alluring aspects of the band’s studio releases. The musicianship of the duo became prevalent early in the set: Glantz delivered emotionally and stylistically diverse guitar solos that beautifully detailed each song, and Matte’s rock-influenced drumming could be compared to that of Joshua Dun from Twenty One Pilots. But the real swoon factor came from Glantz’s voice as he gracefully climbed into falsetto between buttery R&B runs that I doubt he could truly help. The crowd melted, cradled in his voice, helplessly falling in love with him just as fast as he was falling in love with them.

This relationship seemed to nearly explode as Glantz performed “High School,” a ballad about growing pains, and “Dirty AF1s,” which started off as a solo but was swept up in the chorus of the crowd, voices soaring above the space and providing landing in unified harmony. For about 10 minutes, the show transformed into a karaoke bar as Glantz and Matte dove into “Party in the U.S.A.” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” causing the room to explode in lyrical unity. Coming out of this glorious set of covers, Glantz asked the crowd to join him in singing a series of ohs that would lead into the final song of the night: “Sad,” featured on his October 2019 debut EP I’m Sorry I Love You. Feeding off of the crowd’s energy and aided by Glantz’s Strat, the duo transformed the simple keyboard/drum tune into a swelling, hard-hitting pop-rock anthem. It was a high-energy finish to the set that successfully fed the quietly-growing, bumbling anticipation of the audience, giving us a more satisfying taste before the headliner was to take the stage.

The stage was swept into darkness and cleared, and almost magically, an Omar Apollo sign appeared, idly centered in the back half of the stage. As no one had seen it been moved or carried, this alone was enough to cause an eruption of cheers. More and more people filed into the venue during sound check, which was carried out by a lone warrior passionately encouraged by the crowd every time he touched an instrument or crossed the stage. Eventually he vanished, and in his absence the band’s sign lit up, neon purple and welcoming in a thin line of smoke. Seconds later the side stage door flew open, and out walked four boys - Omar Velasco, Dreamboy Oscar, Manny Barajas, and Joey Medrano, all buckling over in laughter and wearing a considerable amount of confidence.

As soon as the band was comfortably on stage, music erupted. Velasco immediately launched into the air, landing briefly to execute sexy, playful, and complicated dance moves before taking back to the skies, using the entire stage as a well-controlled trampoline. Without losing a breath, he slid in and out of falsetto, slathering it in butter and managing to outsing some of his records - all the while using both his hips and shoulders to command the crowd to dance. Oscar, Barajas, and Medrano quickly established themselves as tight and highly skilled musicians, delivering masterful fills and licks both individually and cohesively. They gracefully maneuvered through genre after genre - traditional, R&B, pop, rock, hip-hop - without a hitch, never failing to provide both groove and emotion. It would be hard to refer to just Velasco when referencing the show, because the group moved and performed so well as a unit. Even when Velasco would occasionally join in on a white Stratocaster, the band’s chemistry only seemed to become more rooted within the music and their obvious friendships, expressed through their overt silliness. Omar Apollo’s genre-defiant style and influences painted the entire show as they performed “Frío,” a song exclusively in Spanish; “Brakelights,” a song based in pop which ultimately finishes somewhere between R&B and alternative; and a cover of “Cool Cat,” arguably one of Queen’s most underrated songs, the band’s performance of which plowed through any doubts one might have had about their musical ability. Despite two other artists performing prior, an occasional language barrier, and the constant change of pace, this was the most energy the crowd had had all night.

Each step Velasco took towards the edge of the stage caused a miniature stampede, smashing hundreds of kids into the necks and backs of the people in front of them and, if they were lucky enough, the stage itself. The venue seemed to shake as the boys dished out their hits “Ugotme,” “Kickback,” “Ignorin,” “Ashamed,” and “Hijo De Su Madre,” never once losing their enthusiasm and dedication to the crowd. Finally when it seemed their energy could go no higher, they shared their love and left the stage. Hardly anyone left - in fact, more and more bodies clung to the stage, unbothered by the heat and sweat. The word “encore” slipped from only a few lips, barely becoming a murmur before the boys kicked the stage door open and skipped back onto the stage to cries and yells from the crowd. Barely seconds passed before “So Good” was blasting through the speakers, blanketing the late hour in fresh adrenaline. As the encore came to an end, a lingering sensation held us there, everyone displeased by the very idea of leaving the night behind. Several people stood around, simply staring at the stage as the lights reset themselves for open doors and the moving of equipment. On the train ride home, voices buzzed and faces lit up recalling the go-go alien, the dirty AF1s you’d hope to never lose, and the saucy chicano boy with the frosty tips. It was certainly an odd collection of artists, all of which were charming enough to draw you in for another memorable night.

Listen to Omar Apollo’s newest EP Friends HERE, and follow him on social media HERE.

Omar Apollo


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