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Frank Ocean's Sweet Life

Live Shot of Odd Future rapper at La Zona Rosa last night

By Abby Johnston, 2:10PM, Fri. Jul. 20, 2012

Frank Ocean's Sweet Life
photo by John Anderson

By 5:30pm Thursday, a line had formed outside La Zona Rosa. By 7pm – an hour before doors opened – the line wrapped around the building, everyone in the snaking chain vying for a coveted spot in the front few rows of Frank Ocean. Unfortunately, once inside, the majority were lost in the dense sea of the sold-out show spilling back onto the outer edges of the venue.

Needless to say, the Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All crooner has created quite a buzz on the strength of his debut studio album Channel Orange, not to mention a flurry of conjecture over his sexuality, which he addressed on the Fourth of July in a poignant letter on his Tumblr. Either way, this crowd was hungry for Frank Ocean, and the New Orleans rapper and singer delivered.

Donning his signature headband, Ocean sauntered onstage with a fourpiece backing band and launched his set with only a slight delay – a great relief given his crew's notoriety for loose start times. Largely comprised of songs from this month's Orange, the set also dipped into the MC's self-released first LP.

In front of a TV screen wall, Ocean's neo-soul shown early on "Sweet Life," sexy commentary on the dangers of wealth. The hammered piano chords of "Super Rich Kids" trick me every single time into thinking Ocean's covering Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets," but much to my relief, no one had to suffer through a garbled rendition of the radio staple.

Rather, his pared down rap zoomed straight into flawless falsettos and back again into spoken-word cadence. Just as his flow began casting a spell on the house, Ocean took a random break. The band filled in with John Mayer collaboration "White,” while the crowd sent smoke puffs into the rafters. "Pyramid" finally found Ocean hitting his stride in full force, loosening his rigid stage presence and sending the audience into a frenzy.

When Ocean exited the stage a second time, many no doubt assumed he was watering the pipes again, but he never returned. With two albums to pull material from, the hour-long set translated into roughly 50 cents a minute. Judging by the roaring crowd, they'd pay it again gladly.

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