Frank Ocean played the first stop on his nationwide tour Friday night, supporting the is-it-even-out-in-stores-yet channel ORANGE. Compared to his first album/mixtape/release nostalgia, ULTRA., ORANGE is less concerned with the past; there aren’t songs about lost fathers, childhood, or anything else that you can really call wistful ‘nostalgia.’ ULTRA seemed to reflect Ocean’s then-status as a recent transplant to Los Angeles, writing songs for other artists while missing his native New Orleans. New songs like “Super Rich Kids,” “Sweet Life,” and “Crack Rock” (all of which were played last night) take aim at young excesses and the debaucherous lifestyles of rich L.A. kids that Ocean has slowly grown accustomed to, (and first met on ULTRA’s “Novacane”) but he doesn’t champion or chastise anybody, he simply lets their fragile lives play out; the most fragile being his own. I imagine that for the next year or so, every journalistic piece on Ocean and channel ORANGE will mention the letter he posted onto tumblr on July 4th, where he revealed that at the age of 19 he fell in love with a man, and that he considers it the first true love of his life despite it being unrequited. Originally intended for Orange’s album credits/thank yous, the letter is raw, heartfelt, and seems indicative of my generation’s propensity for outpouring their emotions onto livejournal/xanga/blogspot/tumblr. The songs that touch upon this unrequited love, like “Bad Religion” and “Forrest Gump” were the highlights of the night for me, and the sold-out crowd seemed most energized by these moments of vulnerability, while also getting down on songs like the 10-minute funk freak-out of “Pyramids.”
This being Friday the 13th, a day in Seattle where a lot of us woke up to thunder and lightening, the concert was probably bound to have a few eerie and halting moments. It was my second time seeing Ocean, and he appeared a little distracted onstage at the Showbox, and less at ease than at Coachella where I saw him perform during the festival’s second weekend. It might have been my positioning in the far back of the venue, but Ocean seemed to mumble his way through song introductions, at one point even beginning to say “This next song...” before shrugging and simply starting the number. The evening ended with a terse version of the song he co-wrote for Beyonce, “I Miss You,” that puzzled me at the time, but going home and listening to the song, some of the lyrics stood out; “It don’t matter who you are/it is so simple/a feeling/but it’s everything/no matter who you love/it is so simple/a feeling/but it’s everything.” With lyrics like that, Frank Ocean clearly didn’t have to talk much on stage to let us know how he feels.