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Frank Ocean Headlines Coachella: Review, Video + Setlist

Frank Ocean made his long-awaited return to the stage on Sunday with a headlining appearance at Coachella 2023.

Things got off to a rather inauspicious start for the much anticipated performance. For those hoping to watch at home, Ocean was pulled from the YouTube livestream just three hours before his scheduled set time. For those on the ground, there was the disappointment of no Ocean products being offered at the merch tent, and the lengthy delay as his set didn’t start until an hour past the scheduled start time.

When Ocean did finally take the stage, it was in a rather modest fashion, facing away from the audience and towards his band. He chose to remain more controlled and insular, frequently removing himself from the stage and his own songs. His performance set up — an equipment-laden mock studio backdrop featuring a line of dancers doing pedestrian choreography while a full-stage screen gave the best view of Ocean himself — was visually stunning, quiet but intriguing. Swirling video cameras captured Frank in often perpetual motion, catching him when you least expect it and finding room to let the activity of the set’s inhabitants take the lead.

The initial portion of Ocean’s set included “Novacane,” “Bad Religion,” “and “Crack Rock” as well as the live debuts of “Come On World, You Can’t Go!”, “White Ferrari,” and “Florida.” A number of these songs boasted new arrangements: “Pink and White” became a gorgeous ethereal acoustic ballad, while “Solo” was sped up and treated like a late night club number.

Mid-way through the performance, Ocean finally began to let his guard down and addressed the audience. He acknowledged that a new album is in the works, but it was not the reason he was playing. “Not that there’s not a new album, but there’s not right now,” he said. Instead, as Ocean explained, his performance served as something of a eulogy to his late brother, Ryan Breaux, who died in a car accident in 2020.

“My brother and I came to this festival a lot. I feel like I was dragged by him sometimes because I didn’t want to get a respiratory infection… I would always end up here, and one of my fondest memories is watching Rae Sremmurd with my brother… and Travis [“Taco” Bennett] in that tent,” he said. “I know he would be so excited to be here with all of us. I want to say thank you for the support and the years and the love all this time. Now I’ll get back to the songs.”

Following the first half of his set, Ocean ceded the spotlight to DJ Crystallmess, who performed an EDM interlude of Ocean’s own songs. While Ocean wasn’t on stage for this portion, there was a spotlight on a twerking security guard. “This is fucking chaotic, but so much fun,” Ocean exclaimed. “Looking back I feel like in 2020 when I was just starting to throw parties in little clubs in New York before shit started going down, I was having a good time listening to new music with DJs coming in on their shit… it’s become part of my weekly practice with Homer Radio. It’s good that it’s not always all about me so I wanted to bring a little of that.”

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