Frank Ocean was worth the wait.
Three weeks after cancelling his first New York City concert, the OFWGKTA singer/songwriter made good on his promise to make it up to the Big Apple with two back-to-back concerts at the Bowery Ballroom.
A multi-ethnic mix of hipsters, average joes, industry insiders and of course, a healthy number of women, crowded the ballroom to catch a glimpse of the Odd Future affiliate as the ubiquitous Mos Def and Hot 97′s DJ Enuff looked on from the second floor balcony.
Sporting a fitted black suit, white shirt and a red and white bandana, Ocean emerged sans DJ or live band 30 minutes after his 9:00 set time to loud cheers. The singer’s musical director, Om’Mas Keith, formerly of Sa-Ra Creative Partners, cued the instrumentals from a Macbook Pro laptop in the right corner of the stage.
Ocean set it off with a cover of Sade’s “By Your Side” before segueing into the unreleased “I’ve Been Thinking About You” and material from his fan-favorite mixtape, Nostalgia, ULTRA, including “Dust,” “Swim Good” and “Songs for Women.” Clips of movies like Boyz n the Hood, Coolie High, ATL and The Neverending Story played on a big screen as Ocean peeled through his catalog. Though he appeared timid at times, Ocean consistently prompted claps upon reciting popular lines and hitting key notes proving he’s no studio crooner. What he lacks in showmanship, he more than makes up for with raw vocal abilities as his live singing sounds pretty close to his recordings.
After a rendition of “Acura Integurl,” Ocean launched into three songs from his forthcoming as-yet-titled LP, including “Super Rich Kids”— a track that interpolates the chorus to Mary J. Blige’s 1992 breakthrough hit, “Real Love.”
Ocean served up more ULTRA selections like “We All Try,” “American Wedding” and “Novacaine,” which surprisingly wasn’t the night’s final number. The New Orleans-bred singer instead opted to close with the Coldplay-sampled, “Strawberry Swing” and quickly exited the stage only to re-emerge for an encore at the crowd’s urging, five minutes later. Now seated at a piano, Ocean recited, “I Miss You,” the track he penned for Beyoncé’s 4.
Aside from his performance of “Novacaine,” on which he grew particularly animated, Ocean routinely stayed glued to the microphone stand, eyes closed. And, though his live show needs some tweaking, a Frank Ocean performance makes for an enjoyable experience. The best is certainly yet to come.—Carl Chery @cchery