By Nadeska Alexis
When Odd Future passed through New York City in May, more than a few people in the crowd at Highline Ballroom—me, obviously included—were hoping to see Frank Ocean perform a few songs from Nostalgia, Ultra. The mixtape-turned-album had been out for three months, every word from “Swim Good” was committed to memory and this was our first opportunity to sing it back to him. To our delight, Ocean did hit the stage; to our despair, only for a very brief appearance. After singing a few snippets and getting flustered, he left. He’s a very shy dude. Finally, on Saturday night (November 5), I had the chance to see Frank Ocean perform those few tracks from Nostalgia, Ultra during his first solo show in his hometown New Orleans.
The shyness was still evident during his first few minutes on stage (especially while he sorted out some technical difficulties) but he also looked sharper than ever, dressed in a formal black suit, accented with a red and white bandana. Throughout his performance a floor microphone and a large screen, flashing assorted film clips were his only accompaniment.
Standing in the center of the stage, still feeling out the crowd, Ocean opened with a rendition of Sade’s “By Your Side,” and the Western movie clips began to roll. The single “Thinking of You” elicited screams from the crowd—Mr. Ocean has earned himself plenty of female fans—and when he finally soaked up the energy, he warmed up considerably. By the time “Swim Good” rolled around, with fans (me, obviously included) singing every word back to him, things got better.
During each song the 23-year-old played, the clips continued to change, giving fans a glimpse into his mind. He’s a self-professed film nerd and a big fan of Stanley Kubrick (who gets a shout out on “Novacane”), but he’s equally enthusiastic about things like Dragon Ball Z, which definitely popped up on the flashing screen. The clips he selected were classic, nostalgic and eccentric from Boyz n the Hood, to The Neverending Story—but what else would you expect from Frank Ocean?
Between his own songs Frank slipped in a few more covers, including Elton John’s “Bennie and The Jets,” and the imagery continued to swirl. The best clip of the night, however, comes during his performance of "American Wedding." Video game enthusiasts (and fairly recent college graduates) might appreciate this one the most.
Frank Ocean will play his second show in New York City on Sunday night (November 6).