Since nobody's talking about much else on the Internet right now, we won't bore you with too much background on Frank Ocean. He's a 24-year-old R&B singer aligned with Odd Future who lives in L.A., just released his first official album on Def Jam, and recently came out of the closet, more or less. Whereas at one time that may have been career suicide, it now looks like the savviest career move imaginable.
His new work, Channel Orange, is getting great reviews, and for what was essentially his hometown coming out party last night the line wrapped around the Wiltern. Ocean already had a strong fan base here. But the ticket prices for his show — which ran for $150 to $300 on Craigslist — were evidence of his superstar turn.
And you know what? All of the recent adoration proved to be well-deserved. Throughout his hour and a half long set, Ocean proved himself to have more than talent, but a unique vision and a knack for candor. (Also, Drake was there, so that's something.)
Ocean hit the stage just before 10, starting off with an intimate cover of Prince's “When You Were Mine” and a stripped down version of “Summer Remains.”
But with “Thinkin Bout You” his four-piece band joined him on stage, and the atmosphere quickly turned electric. A sea of camera phones lit up and screams from the audience rang out, as they would throughout the night. Pausing between his new single and fan-favorite “Novacane,” Ocean explained he'd been in a car wreck earlier in the evening. Seemingly unshaken, he laughed it off: “It's all on Instagram.”
On “Thinkin Bout You” and “Novacane” in particular, Ocean really displayed his prowess. For the former he showed off an immaculate falsetto. The screams from the crowd barely gave him a moment to express to his fondness for L.A. “It's where I fell in love,” he explained. “It's where I had my heart broken.” This was the closest he came to acknowledging his earth-shaking announcement earlier in the month.
After an excellent rendition of the Pharell-produced “Sweet Life,” Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt joined Ocean onstage for Channel Orange standout “Super Rich Kids.” It's perhaps the best piece of art concerning dejected youth since the movie Kids, and it clearly struck a nerve with the crowd. Most everyone seemed to know the words, even though the album's only been out for a week.
Save for the completely overblown and ridiculous guitar solo during “American Wedding,” the rest of the show was impressive as well. “Crack Rock” comes off beautifully in a live setting and like The Velvet Underground's “Heroin” is a beautiful song about a destructive addiction. After the sprawling new single “Pyramids,” Ocean closed out the night with a solo rendition of “I Miss You,” a song he co-wrote for Beyonce. It was a fitting close to an eventful night, Ocean sitting alone at the piano effortlessly projecting the somber melody.
The hype might be a turn-off to some, but don't hold it against him. Though on first listen his voice may not sound particularly unique, he writes endearing, personal songs and respects subtlety and metaphor. His stage presence may have left something to be desired, but considering he's been through the craziest couple weeks of his life (and a car accident to boot), we shouldn't hold it against him.
Personal Bias: All my female friends hate Odd Future, but love Frank Ocean.
The Crowd: In good spirits, despite the extremely long line. Some were able to tide themselves over with vodka from Ralph's, and McDonald's.
Random Notebook Dump: Glad to see Drake and Odd Future are all chummy?
Set list below
When You Were Mine
Thinkin Bout You
Super Rich Kids
Made In America
I Miss You