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  • Frank Ocean @ Terminal 5, NYC 7/26/12
Tags: / Credit: Jason Kempin/GettyImages
Frank Ocean

Though Frank Ocean has performed in New York before, those shows were lesser moments, by design; to date, he’s appeared on stage with Odd Future and performed a lone solo show at Bowery Ballroom in November. The Bowery show, to be sure, radiated signs of the talent promised by Nostalgia, Ultra, but it also seemed a little bit like a dress rehearsal; after all, since Ocean was submerged for so many years, he owed it to himself to try to figure out the live performance, and you know, maybe get in some on-stage Guitar Hero. However, last night’s show bore all the trappings of a star’s look, from the towering prowess of Ocean’s live band down to the thoughtful, climactic setlist. Last night’s show proved that the question is no longer “Will Frank Ocean be a star?” It’s now about the amazing things he can do now that he is one.

Though Frank opened the show with his understated, sterling Sade cover “By Your Side”, he used that piece to build off of, driving that more minimal acoustic setup toward fuller arrangements like “Thinking About You” and “Sweet Life.” You could feel this wave of adrenaline in the crowd — my stars, the crowd at this show — latched on to “Thinking About You,” screaming every lyric, which was pretty much the way it went for every single Channel Orange cut throughout the night (seriously, people screamed themselves hoarse at Terminal 5 last night. Many of these people were in the crowd, it would seem). Their voices, as overpowering as thousands of voices can be, couldn’t even make a dent in the strength of Ocean’s emanating voice; to my ears, he hit every note all night, never trying to hide behind effects or reverb, completely unafraid to sound like himself. It was a vocal performance worthy of a seasoned, practiced veteran; it might sound silly to applaud the professionalism of something you’re paying to see, but, in a landscape where musicianship is not always the focus, it’s sort of astounding see something that shows genuine prowess. It was like seeing R. Kelly, or something — seeing someone who’s already made a career out of bringing it each night.

All of that serves as a good jumpoff for the song most people were waiting to hear all night, the majestic “Bad Religion.” All night, Frank hadn’t done much to directly engage the crowd, only pausing to introduce songs or mutter “New York City” before being drowned out by screams. But, “Bad Religion” wrested the focus totally on him, and the intensity of that moment (to me, at least) was so sharp that it felt like it was over in 30 seconds, a short spurt of honeyed strings conflicted with lyrical sting. After that, he played “Pyramids,” his longest song at ten minutes. I think I can safely speak for everyone by saying we could have all done ten more.

After stepping off stage for a moment, he came back alone to play “I Miss You,” the song he wrote for Beyoncé but one that’s now totally his own, just like how “Thinking About You,” a song Ocean originally wrote for Roc Nation artist Bridget Kelly, is now totally his own, inseparable from his narrative. The life of “I Miss You” is perhaps the best example of the gravity of Frank Ocean; once you know it’s something he’s written, it no longer makes sense as someone else’s song. Last night at Terminal 5, the rest of us were lucky enough to be in his orbit.

01 “By Your Side” (Sade cover)
02 “Summer Remains”
03 “Thinking About You”
04 “Novocaine”
05 “Sweet Life”
06 “Forrest Gump”
07 “Super Rich Kids”
08 “Strawberry Swing”
09 “Made In America”
10 “American Wedding”
11 “Voodoo”
12 “White” (Instrumental)
13 “Crack Rock”
14 “Swim Good”
15 “Lost”
16 “Bad Religion”
17 “Pyramids”
18 “I Miss You”

Comments (24)
  1. the time has come to admit this:

  2. See you in Boston, Frank. :)

  3. Bad Religion is a ridiculously powerful song. One of the most powerful songs in recent memory.

  4. Seeing him tomorrow, pretty pumped

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  6. i’m having trouble comprehending this whole jazz…this guy is one of the most overrated, overhyped songwriters I can remember….the album is ok….not great….forrest gump is one of the most retarded songs i have ever heard……the weeknd is the real deal…this is just hipster bullshit

    • the weeknd is better than frank ocean? really? youre serious?

    • Come on, some of you fuckers really don’t know what good singing sounds like.

      The Weeknd, aside form being a huge, annoying asshole (if you follow him on twitter at all, you know this), is one of those classic lotharios who is clearly an extremely insecure person. On stage, he is clearly nervous; his voice shakes and quivers constantly, he breaks, he’s off-pitch, sings wrong notes, and fills in space with little trills and stuff that sounds fancy but really just hides his inability to carry the actual melody of his songs and sing in the register that one would expect him to be able to after listening to House of Balloons. It took me a little while but after watching tons of live footage and listening to the record, I’ve realized he is auto-tuned as fuck most of time, and it really would take a vocalist of a different caliber to be able to reproduce many of those songs in a live setting, night after night. Not to mention that other he is basically a one-note lyricist and the intrigue and artfulness of his perspective vanished after HoB.

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  8. Based on the performances in those videos, I’ll give him a C+. He passes, but doesn’t show the same enthusiasm and hard work as some of his classmates. His best work seems to come on group projects. He may be a little distracted by all his extra-curricular activities.

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    • “Bad Religion” doesn’t have a particularly memorable melody? You must be listening to the wrong song because it (as well as pretty much ever other song on Channel Orange) has been buzzing around my head for weeks. I’m looking forward to the point when the hype around Frank Ocean does subside, not so that the hype is proved wrong but so that all the people throwing out the cliched “oh, it’s all just hype” nonsense to try to be cool and anti-p4k or whatever can be proven once and for all. Because when the hype subsides, what’s left will be a fucking awesome album that deserves the “classic” status it was initially tagged with.

    • Im not a HUGE fan,but I grabbed the album its pretty good and saw his show in DC because a friend wanted to go.What you all arent seeming to understand,its not about him being gay or hipster hype its because GIRLS LOVE THE FUCK OUT OF FRANK OCEAN.Just like they love Weekend, Drake or any other singing ass R&B/hip hop guys. All his shows are sold out, and its mostly girls -black white,asian,spanish everything and they know all the words to damn near every song.

  10. lol GIRLS LOVE THIS GUY-thats why he’s popular
    just like young white girls like Bieber
    and old ass Black women like Frankie Beverly and Maze
    they’re going regardless how good anyone thinks the songs are

  11. This guy isn’t going away. The buzz isn’t going to calm down. He’s that good. It’s that simple!

  12. You know what I hate about these types of videos, there’s always someone in the crowd who knows all the words and has to sing as loud as possible so they can be heard!

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