Ocean of Sound
Frank Ocean brings channel ORANGE buzz to La Zona Rosa and doesn't disappoint
As I drove by the entrance to La Zona Rosa on Thursday night, I was struck with one question: Since when did people in Austin start showing up to a concert on time?
The line wrapped around the block, roughly three people wide. The eager crowd of 1,200 arrived early to see R&B’s most buzzed-about icon since R. Kelly, Frank Ocean. When I arrived at 8:20 p.m., the place was packed and three of Ocean’s tour t-shirt options were already sold out.
Around 9:15 p.m., the lights dimmed and the expected squeal of the crowd erupted as Frank Ocean, wearing a Japanese flag bandana, strolled to the microphone with a humble grin on his face.
Frank Ocean, also of scandal-ridden Odd Future, is currently one of the most hyped artists in not only R&B, but music in general. He's one of the first artists in hip-hop and R&B to announce that he has had a same-sex relationship.
In a genre of music known for its hetero-normativity and blatant womanizing, this revelation caught the attention of the industry. The amount of approval and support Ocean has received from the hip hop community is unparalleled (see CultureMap's story about Beyonce’s poem to Ocean).
On Thursday night, couples of all persuasions were seen throughout the crowd swaying to Ocean’s weighty love songs. But this is not about Frank Ocean’s sexual orientation. It's about his music.
Ocean has one of the best voices in music today and is an accomplished songwriter (a rare combination in modern music), having written songs not only for himself, but also for the likes of Justin Beiber, Brandy and nine-time Grammy winner, John Legend.
His voice is as flawless live as it is on the mixtapes nostalgia, Ultra and lonny BREAUX and his debut album channel ORANGE (released Tuesday). Given his standout performance, there were several rumors floating around at the show’s end that Ocean had been lip syncing. But he had not.
Standing 15 feet from the stage, I heard moments that his voice actually fluttered higher than on his actual recordings. One instance was during the first single off of channel ORANGE, "Thinkin’ Bout You," in which the chorus requires a range that a very small percentage of men on this planet can hit.
Ocean played several favorites off his latest release, including obvious fan favorite, "Pyramids," a nearly ten-minute electronic tune that will soon be blaring in every club from here to Shanghai. The lights exploded in a strobe-like fashion as he stood under them, confidently nodding his head to the beat and staring at the raucous crowd.
Other favorites included "Novacane" (nostalgia, ULTRA), "Lost" (channel ORANGE), "Pilot Jones" (channel ORANGE) and "Sweet Life" (channel ORANGE).
One complaint from several members of the audience was that he only played a couple of songs off of his two mixtapes, and chose not to play another fan favorite off of nostalgia, ULTRA, "Swim Good," during the 80-minute set.
Though a significant complaint, Ocean's tour is The channel ORANGE Tour, in support of his first major release. Before Thursday's show, there were only two days to listen to the new album, but that proved itself entirely enough time to jam the record nonstop and get familiar — it's that good.
Ocean is an artist to get familiar with. At the young age of 24, he's guaranteed be crooning and swooning for many years to come. And the next time Austin gets a chance to see him live, we can bet the line will be wrapped around the Frank Erwin Center and not the block outside of La Zona Rosa.