Frank Ocean - The Wiltern - 7/17/12
Amidst the hubbub surrounding his sexuality over the past few weeks, Frank Ocean would have needed to literally slay a dragon in order to satisfy the ridiculous amount of hype that's been thrown his way. It's almost unfair to expect a singer who just released his first proper album last week via iTunes and yesterday everywhere else to be able to conquer the world before it was his oyster. Yet here he was performing to a jam-packed, bursting at the seams Wiltern in Los Angeles at perhaps the biggest show of his budding career.
Before the show, the line to enter the venue stretched literally around one city block, something I'd never seen at a show in L.A. before. At first it seemed like the line was for one of those super cool parties that you only hear about after they've happened. But no, there were legions of hipsters and trendsetters waiting in line to see Ocean. Judging by his Coachella performance, it was hard-pressed to look past the build up of the past week to understand why people would be so gaga over the singer. Then he went on stage and everything changed.
Hearing his album last week gave new insight to Ocean's immense talent as both a singer and songwriter. Everyone knows how majestic his lyrics are and how smooth his voice is, but could that translate at such an important at this point in his career? The simple answer: fuck yeah. Throughout his hour-long set, everything Ocean threw at the fans was reciprocated tenfold. The deafening cheers of the crowd made this seem less like a Frank Ocean show, and more like a Beatles concert in 1965. Screaming aside, what made the crowd so impressive is that they knew the lyrics to nearly every song, seemingly trying to drown out the singer before he flexed his vocal muscles and showed them who's boss.
Clad in a button down, dark jeans and bandana, Ocean was as cool on stage as he is on his recorded material. At first, it seemed like he was playing it a little too cool, as he sat through the first three songs on a stool in the middle of the stage, but things picked up after that. Songs like "Sweet Thing" and "Pyramids" elicited loud cheers, but it was "Super Rich Kids," which featured a guest spot from fellow Odd Future member
Tyler, The Creator Earl Sweatshirt that had fans screaming for more.
The one detriment to the evening was the singer's stage presence. He's not exactly the liveliest performer, yet his voice is so strong that it demands your attention. Ocean has a firm understanding of what he can do on-stage, which has allowed him to evolve into a solid live performer. However, he still seems a bit too timid, seemingly afraid to let the audience in and completely feel him. The singer is getting there, but the live package isn't quite complete, but that's a good thing because fans want their artists to keep evolving instead of being one and done. But internally, you could tell that Ocean understood the importance of selling out the Wiltern.
"I usually don't talk at shows, but L.A. is something special and I love L.A.," Ocean said. "I fuck with L.A. in a special way."
Surprisingly, these were some of the few audible words he uttered on stage that weren't mumbled. But there was no mistaking how clear and how crisp his vocals were when he sang. If last night's show is a sign of things to come, then Frank Ocean is a uniter rather than a divider. Besides, who else could manage to bring old school cats and new school hipsters into a room to lose their shit to carefully crafted new school R&B songs?
Critical Bias: Ocean is on the rise, but needs to open up a bit more if he's going to keep up with his terrific studio efforts.
The Crowd: A hodgepodge of old school players and new school fools.
Random Notebook Dump: Why are there chicks dressing like Skrillex still? I thought that look was over and done with last year.