Frank Ocean, gen­tle R&B voice, finds live in­ti­macy at NY fes­ti­val

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Frank Ocean has cap­ti­vated au­di­ences since his de­but with his ten­der­ness, a gen­tle but un­wa­ver­ing voice in the of­ten hyper-ma­cho world of R&B and hip-hop. Nearly a year af­ter he re­leased his long-awaited sec­ond al­bum, "Blonde," Ocean has pre­sented his ever-pa­tient fans with a live vi­sion of his mu­sic, one that cre­ates a kind of cin­e­matic in­ti­macy. Head­lin­ing the first day Fri­day of Panorama, a year-old fes­ti­val on New York City's Ran­dall's Is­land, Ocean shunned the stage-which be­came a gi­ant au­dio­vi­sual project-as he per­formed in the round from an is­land in the crowd.

Ocean emerged to the bois­ter­ous beats of his track "Pretty Sweet" be­fore im­me­di­ately di­al­ing down the ex­u­ber­ance with "Solo," his bare, or­gan-backed con­fes­sional on em­brac­ing soli­tude. Click­ing a but­ton on a moun­tain of equip­ment, Ocean ap­peared on the stage-screen in grainy footage akin to an old home video. But soon it be­came a slick, real-time con­cert movie with shots of Ocean and cheer­ing fans fad­ing into each other and oc­ca­sional bursts of color in­clud­ing Ocean's sig­na­ture orange.

A rare per­former

In a hint that the show may even­tu­ally wind up in a new form, di­rec­tor Spike Jonze filmed Ocean up-close through the en­tire set with a steadicam-a scene that could have fig­ured as a sub­plot to his movies "Her" or "Be­ing John Malkovich." Ocean has re­turned from a three-year tour­ing hia­tus but is only play­ing a hand­ful of shows. Only two are in the United States; the other one, a week ago in Los Angeles, again saw Jonze trail­ing Ocean a well as a cameo ap­pear­ance by Brad Pitt. Ocean-who made waves in the hip-hop world in 2012 by declar­ing that his life's first love was a man-de­liv­ered a state­ment for the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal mo­ment by wearing a T-shirt that read: "Why be racist, sex­ist, ho­mo­pho­bic, or trans­pho­bic when you can just be quiet?"

Ocean re­con­firmed the emo­tional power of his falsetto on tracks such as "Thinkin' 'Bout You," one of his best-known hits, in­fused with a jan­gly gui­tar by stage guest Alex G. Yet the band and Ocean veered out of step at points, with the per­fec­tion­ist singer him­self ac­knowl­edg­ing to the crowd that the show re­mained a work in progress. The show cul­mi­nated in a sur­round sound, rare for fes­ti­vals, as in­stru­men­ta­tion from gui­tar riffs to or­gan boomed from al­ter­nat­ing speak­ers.

Closed stage and mem­o­rable dance moves

Panorama was in­au­gu­rated in New York last year by the pro­mot­ers be­hind Coachella, the pre­mier fes­ti­val that takes place each year in the Cal­i­for­nia desert, as the mar­ket for live mu­sic thrives across the United States. Panorama suf­fered a set­back Fri­day as an in­door, air-con­di­tioned con­cert stage was dam­aged. Fan footage posted on­line showed the wooden floor break­ing open dur­ing a packed per­for­mance by rap­per Isa­iah Rashad.

No one was hurt but the stage was shut for the day, forc­ing can­ce­la­tions of sets by prom­i­nent hip-hop pro­ducer DJ Shadow and French house DJ Break­bot. Frank Ocean was pre­ceded on stage by an­other lead­ing fig­ure of al­ter­na­tive R&B, Solange, who brought brassy takes to last year's al­bum "A Seat at the Ta­ble," an in­tro­spec­tive tour through the state of black Amer­ica. With a stage re­sem­bling the flag of Ja­pan, Solange and her eight-piece band had a touch of Prince as they played decked out in match­ing red out­fits and Solange showed off free-flow­ing dance moves from fluid shoul­ders to a shak­ing head. As for danc­ing, Fu­ture Is­lands again showed them­selves to be among the most pas­sion­ate per­form­ers in in­die rock. Front­man Sa­muel T. Her­ring opened with an apol­ogy, say­ing the Bal­ti­more-based band was jet-lagged af­ter re­turn­ing from Aus­tralia. But the in­ten­sity was on full dis­play-es­pe­cially on "Cave," which touches on the US po­lit­i­cal cli­mate-as the sweat­dripped Her­ring re­peat­edly growled, leaped across the stage and pounded his chest. — AFP

Frank Ocean per­forms at the 2017 Panorama Mu­sic Fes­ti­val on Ran­dall’s Is­land in New York. — AP

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