Remember when “An Evening With” meant something more than just playing sans opener? I guess it’s hard to compare Frank Ocean’s hour and ten minute set to what I think of the usual connotation of “An Evening With” (See: Wilco’s 3.5 hour sets). But hey, maybe “evening with” just signifies some degree of intimacy, a certain focus on a single act for the evening. Perhaps foregoing an opener is only a decision based on the fact that there’s no logical choice on who to have open for Frank Ocean. In fact, with the recent news about him combined with the massive amounts of well deserved praise for his album, Ocean has become a bit of an enigma. A great review of his live show won’t boost him beyond the whirlwind of, again, well deserved, attention and fame, and a terrible panning won’t do anything but considered anything else other than being a curmudgeon for the sake of it.
“A lot of people made a big deal about some things I said a couple weeks ago, some didn’t” intro’d Frank before “Bad Religion.” And with that said, it’s really hard to stay objective with a Frank Ocean review after his revelation. But, with the fear of being chastised by the internet, my evening with Frank Ocean was simply okay.
Don’t get me wrong, the man can sing: his voice hits every note, and nails vocal runs that could punch auto tune in the face. However, the songs lack the emotion and lyrical heaviness of the album. Even “Bad Religion,” prefaced by its contextual significance, felt almost completely devoid of the feeling and conviction that comes from its lyrics.
While the audience singing exceptionally loud and enthusiastically to every word of “Novacane” felt appropriate for a four thousand person venue and “Pyramids” was a banger for its full 10 minutes, other tunes were almost too faithful to their recorded versions. Even his Odd Future family watching from the balcony did not characteristically lose their shit until “Pyramids.” I’d say it’s because they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves, but who are we kidding?
But, while the show was fun and impressive, it was not as awe-inspiring and memorable as the title “An Evening With” promises, especially an evening with Frank Ocean, something that sounds more like a dinner and movie than a long set. Perhaps Frank Ocean’s phenomenal Channel Orange isn’t ready to be showcased live. Maybe Frank himself isn’t ready. He has the sex appeal and the swagger to woo the crowd while he’s actually singing, but in between lines it’s almost as if he doesn’t know what to do with himself. Or maybe, Channel Orange is forever relegated to the bedroom.