On Sunday I attended Frank Ocean’s first ever concert in New York City. This show was a victory and a dance after an unfortunate chain of events including hours of refreshing the Ticketmaster page in hopes that it would no longer read “sold out”. After counseling from ‘Nancy’ at Ticketmaster, and not even hearing about his originally scheduled show weeks earlier, until the tickets were completely gone (thankfully he was too sick to perform at that time), I was finally saved by social networking whining and a focused friend who weathered the Craigslist storm to score marked up tickets, and it was all worth it.Everyone who knows me, knows that I have been listening (almost exclusively) to Frank Ocean on repeat since about May when I found out about his self produced/promoted album “nostalgia, ULTRA”. I mean he is the only person that I don’t know that I follow on twitter. So naturally when it was learned that I accomplished ticket victory, I kept being asked how the show was (as if they don’t know that my response is going to be completely biased). But in an effort to get this out of the way and to avoid continuous post-show bliss syndrome repeating my experience, it makes sense to share it here. Where to start…
The crowd: hipsters, music bloggers, and screaming college girls (peppered with my type = honorary Frank Ocean cougars). Besides us, there was Frank, a mic, a screen, projector and a stage. Yes, just us and Frank…he wore his “I’m touring now and this is what I want for my fashion imprint as a new artist”: classic fitted black suit, white shirt, and a bandana as a headband. This is what he wore in New Orleans, Los Angeles, and London as well. I knew this before I arrived. Research was required.Disclaimer: In my view he could have mimed and I would have felt equally happy with my marked up tickets, but thankfully he did not. To quote The Fader; “He looked great, well tailored and handsome. He has perfect teeth and an incredible smile, his handsome persona more a vessel for his voice than a reason to listen.” I couldn’t have said it better. After re-discovering the cleverness and tenderness in this young man’s music for the past six months, even someone who wasn’t as smitten as myself would have to admit that one can’t help but be intrigued by Frank Ocean – the person. I found out Sunday that he is shy (which I figured). I also found out that he’s kind of a clown (which I figured). This was proven to me when he picked up a guitar at the start of the guitar solo for “American Wedding” (which is the same music as “Hotel California”), turning his back to a pensive audience and faced the projector screen playing the home entertainment phenomenon, Guitar Hero (instead of an actual guitar). His clowning was also confirmed when he started to do the electric slide by himself to his new prophetic tune “Disillusioned”, when the lyrics say, “…we gonna drink ’till the deejay plays our song, and then turn.this.mutha.f*cka.out.” (to which he turned and snapped. It was beautiful.)
My love for his artsy fartsy cali/southern quirkiness also increased with his backdrop selections throughout the show. The projector went from rare provocative Woodstock/psychedelic footage of hippies doing drugs to his radio hit “Novocaine” (which I hardly ever listen to), to a montage of clips from nostalgic black cinema (from Cooley High to Boys In The Hood), while he performed my favorite song “Songs for Women”. Frank Ocean performs “Real Love” aka “Super Rich Kids” @ The Bowery Ballroom NYC. *The call & response female voice that you hear in the “Amen” corner is not my own, however I did emote in a similar fashion.
I loved it all. My friend (who’s a musician) said he needs a band. The audience enjoyed every moment from him opening the show covering Sade’s “By Your Side” to him coming back after an encore with a piano to cover Beyonce’s “Miss You”. Of course we all knew every word to every song, but he also had us singing words to songs that he debuted that night, like the catchy “Real Love” tune that I can’t stop playing.
This show is highly recommended. He’s simple and refreshing, and as Pharell Williams said, “He’s like the black James Taylor”. I’m still reverberating from the Ocean vibe days later.