Finally! After a close call last year and several missed opportunities, Frank Ocean finally made it to Copenhagen Thursday night. Naturally, both the crowd and Ocean seemed eager to hear and play last year's 'Channel Orange'. Over the course of 90 minutes, we go to hear most of his excellent full length, save for some forgettable interludes (sorry, John Mayer) and 'Fertilizer,' which it is hard to imagine anyone complaining about.
Having had the pleasure of seeing Ocean live before right around the 'Channel Orange' release, I can safely say that the album now sounds significantly better live. Some might complain that the live setting rarely veered too far from the record, but that is missing the point. With a live band to back him up, Ocean adds an extra dash of energy to a repertoire that otherwise could have suffered from being perhaps a tad too polished. This additional kick and Ocean's brilliant voice bring tracks like 'Lost,' 'Crack Rock,' and of course 'Pyramids' to life to an extent that no record can match.
The heavy focus on 'Channel Orange' did not stop Ocean from looking both forward and backwards. The brilliant 'Songs for Women' and 'Acura Integurl' were perhaps somewhat unexpected, though 'Novacane' and 'Swim Good' (albeit in an a cappella version) were not.
Ocean also played a small handful of unreleased tracks, giving some idea of what to expect from from his next album. Although first impressions are tricky, the new songs seemed fairly static, often revolving around a single chord progression or a simple staccato keys/drums combination. On a night where most other things seemed to work flawlessly, they were probably the least exciting experience. Here is to hoping that subsequent spins might reveal their hidden qualities.
Still, the best part of seeing Frank Ocean in concert is seeing Frank Ocean in concert. He mostly sticks to walking casually around the stage, although you might catch him kneeling by the crowd or spinning around, arms flailing in his most exuberant moments. As a performer, he remains understated and utterly sympathetic. When he nails his falsetto or throws in an offbeat comment, however, Tap1 just about erupts, and you are quickly reminded why his popularity has soared.
Ocean might not be much of a performer. He does not need a great deal of showmanship, however, when he lets his back catalog do the heavy lifting and delivers 90 delightful minutes of excellent music. Seeing Frank Ocean live, it feels great to be reminded that you can still, quite literally, get lost in the heat of it all.