FRANK OCEAN: Taking New York

Odd Future’s Frank Ocean strikes flag in his own lane at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom.

Words: Andrea K. Castillo
Images and Video: alex-ray kairos*

Monday, November 28, 2011. The weather is crisp in the streets of NYC, almost spring-like. An excitement fills the air. It is night two of the sold-out Frank Ocean show series at the Bowery Ballroom, where Ocean, née Christopher Breaux, made his New York debut just last night. Tonight’s scene adds to his rising momentum. Concert goers of varying types and ethnic backgrounds, shrouded in beards, plaid, Jeffrey Campbell heels, red lips—they are all here. A little hipsterish, perhaps, but they are bound together nonetheless for a greater purpose, to hear the soulful music of New Orleans-bred crooner and Odd Future member live. With so much hype revolving around the shows, including a false start, a few weeks back when his initial attempt at a New York debut was put on hold due to illness, what transpired when Ocean finally hit the stage was most definitely worth the wait.

Starting at about 9:30PM devoid of openers, Frank Ocean began his set with a cover of Sade’s “By Your Side” to warm acclaim. Being a huge Sade fan myself, I appreciated his rendition, as it was thoughtful and showed his depth and appreciation for his fellow artist. He continued with tracks from his acclaimed mixtape nostalgia, ULTRA., key moments being his performances of “Thinking About You”, “Songs About Women” and my favorite, “We All Try”.

Interspersed with featured tracks from Watch the Throne like “No Church In the Wild” and “Made it in America”, Ocean also performed a few new tracks including “Super Rich Kids” and “Disillusioned”. The receptive crowd sang along—word for word— probably in part to the vast amount of Mary Jane in the air, but more importantly, reveling in the fact that Frank Ocean has arrived and they were there to witness his greatness. Some even began requesting songs at this point, unknowingly showing how much of an influence the young man we have come to know as Frank Ocean has made on the music scene, in such a short period of time. And seldom have I seen a newcomer perform in NYC to such praise and admiration.

A fun moment occurred during his performance of “American Wedding”. His back to the audience, he performed his guitar, solo, facing a backdrop of Guitar Hero on a massive big screen. A lighthearted and endearing approach to breaking up the seriousness of his set, which was very deep and emotional as Ocean is best known for. As the show winded down, Ocean laced the crowd with the favored “Novacane” and the mellow “Strawberry Swing”. It appeared to be the end of the show, until Ocean returned to the stage with an electric piano to perform “I Miss You”, the heart-felt ballad he penned for Beyonce’s album, 4.

Overall, a great debut from Señor Ocean. His live vocals were crisp, mirroring that of his recordings and at times exceeding them, while his connection with the audience was tangibly real. I look forward to seeing him grow as an artist; well done.

Follow Frank Ocean on Twitter, @Frank_Ocean

Images and Video by alex-ray kairos*

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