Frank Ocean - South Side Music Hall - 7/20/12
See also: The fans at Frank Ocean
Mike Mezeul Frank Ocean
South Side Music Hall
Friday, July 20
Frank Ocean's latest album, Channel Orange, is garnering critical praise. His recent television debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was a jaw-dropper. He's riding the wave of hype provided for him by the media, but amidst all the recent Ocean cheerleading, his live show at South Side Music Hall still felt singular.
Ocean took the stage a little after 10 p.m., and sprinted through the first few songs. As the crowd settled in front of the stage, and grabbed those last few drinks from the bar, the drums kicked in for "Thinking About You." From then on, we were mostly putty in Ocean's capable hands.
His five-piece band brought to life both Channel Orange and tracks from last year's Nostalgia, Ultra mixtape. Clever arrangements throughout the night highlighted the players' agility and made for a simpler live counterpoint to some of his recordings' lusher moments. The organ work on "Sweet Life" is begging for the addition of live horns. The live arrangement of "Pyramids" was another standout, as the band traded measures with the loose sexiness of a well-worn jazz combo before launching into the funkier verse.
Ocean's lyrical narratives inform the styles of his catalog, his incredible voice meshed with these varying styles with ease. His stripped-down version of "American Wedding" sounded classic rock, yet still his own. As he sang through the chorus, I started to imagine some country music soprano taking it on as a cover. It would work.
There is a break in Ocean's voice, where his guts live. You can hear it throughout most of "Bad Religion," but once he flips to that falsetto, the teenage girls swoon. Marketing professionals concerned that those teenage girls you love to advertise to won't be screaming irrationally for a gay or bisexual artist needn't worry.
This is the beginning for Ocean; Friday night he lived up to his hype, but it's clear he is still forming. That a sold-out crowd knew nearly every word to an album released just one week ago and a self-released mixtape proves Ocean already won passionate loyalty from fans, and that the music industry has gone from well-oiled machine to the wild wild west.
As the night wrapped up, Ocean smirked out to the audience: "Since I was a little kid I always wanted to tell a crowd to make some noise." He should get used to that noise.
By the way: This show was another feather in Scoremore's cap. They continue to match top notch emerging artists with great venues in Texas, and some of my favorite moments this year have been delivered via their show roster.
Note dump: The adults in the crowd were the same insanely attractive people I saw at the Watch the Throne tour. Where are these people hanging out?