Be it for a crowd of one or 100, you get the feeling that Frank Ocean would be just as charmingly awkward when performing tracks from his breakthrough digital album Nostalgia, Ultra. On Monday evening, the Odd Future singer/songwriter performed his second New York City show in as many days, making up for the scheduled November 6 concert that was canceled, citing illness.
There was no opening act or host for the evening, just Ocean, who stormed the Bowery Ballroom stage at exactly 9:30 p.m. wearing a black jacket, white button-down shirt and a red bandana tied around his forehead. "You think I'd leave your side baby/ You know me better than that," he sang, starting out his set with a soulful rendition of Sade's "By Your Side." As the 23-year-old New Orleans export serenaded the crowd, the screen behind him played clips of old Western films and changed themes with each song: sometimes playing scenes from "Boyz n the Hood," other times playing animated "Dragon Ball Z" clips.
After the opening number, Frank addressed the crowd, professed his love for NYC and revealed to fans that he first fell in love, then ultimately got his heart broken, in Southern California. The charming anecdote set up "Thinking About Forever," a hopelessly romantic slow jam about recapturing lost love.
Ocean isn't the type of singer who rips off his shirt, nor does he show any signs of being a dancer — two qualities typically associated with modern-day crooners. Frank, however, remains relatable on a level most artists are not, which makes him able, in between each song, to simply chat and laugh with the audience, and though he seemed uneasy at times, it was enough to keep his adoring fans engaged. The female portion of the crowd squealed when he eased into "Dust," and when Ocean belted out the opening line from "Swim Good" — "That's a pretty big trunk on my Lincoln Town Car" — most of the crowd shot their hands into the air, swaying them side to side.
Though his die-hards know him for so much more, the OFWGKTA breakout is most popular for his contributions to Jay-Z and Kanye West's inescapable Watch the Throne LP, so of course, he performed his portions of "No Church in the Wild" and "Made in America."
His catalog isn't deep, but for an hour, Ocean kept fans entertained by running through fan favorites and even giving a taste of his next album, singing two new songs: "Super Rich Kids" and the bouncy and bassy "Disillusioned."
The only downfall was that for much of the show, Ocean simply stood center stage, but boy did he sound great. He switched things up on "American Wedding," his heartbreaking flip of the Eagles' classic "Hotel California." For the track's iconic guitar solo, Ocean turned his back to the crowd, faced the screen, picked up a video-game guitar controller and played out the song's closing notes on "Guitar Hero."
The crowd — mixed with industry mainstays, star-gazing girls, frat boys and even a few celebs (Mos Def was in attendance) — ate it up.
After his version of Coldplay's "Strawberry Swing," Ocean said goodnight and left the stage. The crowd stood, demanding an encore, and were granted their wish when Ocean returned to the stage sitting by a piano. He closed with "I Miss You," a song he wrote for Beyoncé's 4, then once again said goodnight and left the stage, "for real this time," he joked.
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