Frank Ocean is a man who does things on his own terms. From dropping his debut mixtape ‘Nostalgia/Ultra’ for free back in 2011 because he was fed up with his record label to-ing and fro-ing on a release date, to emerging after a four-year absence with a live stream of a furniture workshop with his album ‘Endless’ playing in the background, Ocean is a man who pays little attention to the conventions of the music industry. So when you’re stood in among a 50,000 strong crowd waiting for Ocean to make his first live appearance in the capital in four years you get the feeling you might be in for something a little bit different.
Much like the man himself and his music, Ocean’s arrival 30 minutes after his estimated stage time is low key and understated. Two large screens on stage fill with GoPro-filmed images of him singing opener ‘Solo’ as large swathes of the crowd squint in the direction of the stage trying to make out exactly where he is. Midway through most have worked out that he’s performing on a specially erected platform bang in the middle of the field (much to the dismay of those who’ve camped out in the front row you imagine) as images of him crooning closed eyed while wearing an oversized pair of headphones (to make sure he stays in tune with his band apparently) are relayed to huge screens on stage. While the intention of this set-up must be to create a more intimate atmosphere for a man whose music probably isn’t best suited to enormous festival stages, for the opening few numbers, things go the opposite way and there’s a huge feeling of disconnect between Frank and the crowd. Running through recent singles ‘Biking’, ‘Solo’ and ‘Lens’ the split focal points between the screens on stage and the distant figure of Frank on the platform start to give you the overwhelming feeling that you’re watching the concert film rather than actually being at the concert.
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