By Arielle Hixson, DC Music Live
The lines wrapped around the corner at the 9:30 Club this Monday. Fans, some sporting embellished bandanas around their heads, were anxiously humming the five key notes of “Thinking of You” and rapidly discussing what other favorite songs they’d like to hear. The Frank Ocean concert was sold out, and after the release of his latest album Channel Orange and overwhelming presence in the media – people were excited to see what he would come up with next.
After both the spacious lower floor and towering upper balcony were packed with screaming fans, the lights dimmed and Frank Ocean casually walked on the stage. He cued the band to start slow – acoustic – and soothed the crowd with a surprisingly original rendition of Sade’s “By Your Side.” It was a low-key demonstration of his artistic ability to be flexible with old and new. The energetic fans who were once attempting to leap on stage were transformed to calm listeners, shocked by his versatility. It was a daring move to start slow and not hit the audience with some of his top hits, but the crowd was filled with people who truly admired and appreciated the artist himself.
Ocean didn’t wait too long to kick up the band and bring the audience’s energy back. He casually segued into the hit song from Channel Orange, “Thinking of You,” and sang along with fans who knew the lyrics by heart. Although Ocean may be a devoted musician, he had a cool and calm demeanor on stage. Each note was executed gracefully, perfectly on pitch – yet he didn’t have the commanding stage presence of Janet Jackson or Usher. Although, the audience’s unwavering support for the relaxed musician demonstrated that his soothing, sexy R&B sound cannot be denied.
At that point he had the crowd by the palm of his hands. With the sound of monstrous percussion throbbing in the speakers and an audience filled with what looked like swaying hands and lighted cellphones, Ocean played a few more recognizable hits. “Swim Good” and “Novacane” from his first mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra as well as Channel Orange’s “Sweet Life” were some that were graciously accepted by the crowd. He didn’t move much – did his same routine of walking across stage, touching a few hands and sitting on a chair every now and then – but the audience was oblivious. As long as he played the songs they had sang for months, blasted in their cars or in their earphones to work, they were on cloud nine.
Towards the end of his set, Ocean segued into “Pyramids,” which was arguably one of the most coveted performances of the night. It was evident from the raise of screams and jumping motions from the crowd that “Pyramids” was a hit they had waited for all night – and the roughly 10 minute song was thoroughly enjoyed, from start to finish.
Once he walked off stage, the crowd desperately screamed for an encore – yet Ocean had left the building. Fans once again hummed their favorite songs from the night, some even danced as they walked into the hot summer air on U Street. Ocean’s casual stage presence and soothing vocals had won the audience over once again.