Frank Ocean’s a rare artist indeed. See the man live, and he leaves you punched in the heart, wondering what the hell just happened.
At the second of Ocean’s sold-out Brixton Academy shows, every one of the few-thousand attendees is here for one reason: to take in the moment, and bask in it. Of course it’s hot in here – it’s hot outside, too. But that’s no obstacle to drinking this in, to letting the experience sink into the senses.
Ocean’s show is as tight as fans have come to expect. The simple projection of a car – the same model of BMW that adorns the cover of his ‘nostalgia, ULTRA’ mixtape – driving across Arizona salt flats is beamed centre stage for the entirety. A few well-placed lighting tricks add to the atmosphere.
Ocean’s backing is equally minimal: organ, synths, guitars, drums and a two-piece brass section. It’s the singer himself, of course, who proves the focal point, possessed as he is of a voice that can melt the listener in a matter of seconds.
Running close to two hours, Ocean’s set encompasses all the cuts that those with heavy expectations have come to hear: from ‘channel ORANGE’ favourites (‘Sweet Life’, ‘Pyramids’, ‘Thinking Bout You’) to tracks from its preceding mixtape, as well as two new numbers, ‘Feel California’ and ‘Brave’.
These fresh songs aren’t too much of a surprise, as he played them the night before – and previewed them a month past at a Munich show, too. But what is certainly striking is the a cappella interpretation of ‘nostalgia, ULTRA’ track ‘Swim Good’. It’s one of those times where the vastness of the venue collapses, intimacy between artist and fan(s) absolute.
This is a special time for Ocean – and a special time for his fans, too. His music is becoming the kind that shapes life lessons, experiences and interactions, which one will never forget. His is a powerful sound, and few inside the Academy aren’t slightly honoured to be here.
Ocean’s Odd Future colleagues might raise the roof wherever they go. But you know what they say about the quiet ones – and tonight proves that it’s this unique artist who articulates himself with the greatest poise and power of any amongst the OF ranks.
Words and photos: Rob Meyers
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