The Sophisticated Sounds of Frank Ocean

November 28th, 2011

Frank Ocean – The Bowery Ballroom – November 27, 2011

On “Swim Good,” one of the surprise hits from his debut mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, Frank Ocean sings, “And I’ve got this black suit on/ Roaming around like I’m ready for a funeral.” The song, like most of his limited yet excellent output, is dark, complex and soulful. It also comes from an artist whose 2011 emergence rivals all others, going from unknown Odd Future crew member to almost instant popularity as a Watch the Throne collaborator.

Before a sold-out crowd at The Bowery Ballroom last night, Ocean performed in his aforementioned black suit with a red-and-white-striped bandanna. The hip and sophisticated costume drew attention, not only from fans but kingmakers in attendance. ?uestlove, seated on the balcony, felt compelled to comment on Twitter, saying, “@ffrank_ocean [sic] is a class act yo. Suit & Sade cover. Nice start.”

In addition to the Sade cover (“By Your Side”), Ocean sang a number of choice selections from Nostalgia, Ultra as well as a medley of his work on Watch the Throne (“No Church in the Wild” and “Made in America”). The diverse crowd knew most of his material, even unreleased songs familiar only to those who scour the Internet. But “Dissolution” and “Super Rich Kids,” both of which Ocean mentioned will be on his proper debut, are sure to be hits, and fans are right to take notice. So while Ocean was right about his outfit, he better not be ready for his funeral. —Jared Levy

(Tonight’s Frank Ocean show at The Bowery Ballroom is sold out.)