R&B wonderboy Frank Ocean doesn’t haven’t to do much to win over fans in his live shows. Between his effortlessly smooth vocals and frank stage banter, Ocean won over fans who opted against the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Avicii last night (August 4) at Lollapalooza. With a full band backing him up, Ocean’s distinct take on R&B-meets-hip-hop is even more powerful than recorded.
While some artists’ sets were cut and condensed due to the weather-inspired evacuation of Lolla earlier in the day, Ocean got his full hour, performing until nearly 11 p.m. thanks to an extended closing time. He started with a cover of Sade’s “By Your Side,” his signature opening song on his tour supporting debut full-length, Channel Orange.
Instead of charging right into Channel Orange tracks, Ocean leaned on cuts off his 2011 mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra. He seemed almost nostalgic about his first release, chatting about wanting to “stay in that mode” for a little while longer. Fans were happy to oblige, as Ocean ran through Nostalgia, Ultra‘s biggest hit, “Novacane,” then “Swim Good” and “Strawberry Swing.” He segued nicely into the intro for “Made in America,” the hook he sang on the Jay-Z/Kanye West song off Watch the Throne, to a roar of applause.
Ocean then took a moment to discuss the oddity of boxed water, which is what Lollapalooza sells and provides to artists. “This boxed water thing is different, but I like it,” he joked. “That isn’t product placement – but it should be.”
Throughout his Channel Orange tour, Ocean has found a way to work around the legal hot water he landed in after heavily sampling the Eagles’ “Hotel California” in his Nostalgia, Ultra song “American Wedding.” For legal reasons, Ocean is not allowed to perform the track with anything even resembling the “Hotel California” melody, so his guitar player performs a nondescript riff instead while Ocean performs. It sounds less-than-thrilling, but fans went crazy over it at Lolla, both because they know the legal drama behind the song and because it actually worked.
Finally, Frank worked his way into what fans were looking for: Channel Orange. His selection of tracks off the high-selling album weren’t what one would expect, with a song like “Monks” making the cut while the infectious “Sweet Life” did not. Ending his set with “Bad Religion” and 10-minute dance track “Pyramids,” Ocean took a moment to acknowledge his coming out read ’round the world. “This is important because of some of the things I’ve said in the last month,” Ocean said as an introduction to “Bad Religion,” alluding to his openness about his bisexuality. And with that, Ocean dug right into the emotional track, fans watching his every move. It was a sincere moment that showed, once more, why Frank Ocean is different from the pack.
- Jillian Mapes, CBS Local