Frank Ocean lights it up live in Toronto
Frank Ocean (CP Images)
It's not often that you get to see an artist on the verge of guaranteed superstardom. Christopher Breaux is a New Orleans via Los Angeles bred 24 year old phenom in the world of Rhythm & Blues. He's written songs for some of the world's biggest names: Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kanye West and John Legend. Last month, he decided to step out from behind-the-scenes releasing his debut studio album and has more buzz behind him than anyone I can recall in recent years. A lot of that buzz is based on the fact that he came out of the closet in a blog post on his tumblr account the week leading up to the album's release, which as courageous as that is, hopefully does not overshadow the greatness of his record, channel ORANGE.
If you haven't guessed, Christopher Breaux goes by the stage name of Frank Ocean and his show at the Kool Haus was the hottest ticket in Toronto last night (July 31st). Scalpers out front of the venue were reaching as high as an overheard $200 for tickets that were $36 at face value.
What's so special about Frank Ocean? Well, as one fan put it, "It's a breath of fresh air for R&B lyrically in a time when the music is all very similar." Another echoed those emotions saying, "He reminds me what good soul and good R&B is. A little love, a great story, sex and great grooves. Authentic soul is tough to find in popular music."
The tour, Frank's first, was sold out before the record was even released. It has spanned two weeks with the Toronto show being his second last of the 'official tour' before he heads out to music festivals and opens for Coldplay across Europe. It seems Frank's enjoying his new life on the road, as he put it on his twitter account a couple of nights ago, "This tourlife takes some getting used to. I get to zone out and be someones' hero or deviant fantasy or whatever for an hour and some change every night though. That's special, and the women still scream in the front row."
Scream they did! Taking to the stage fashionably late shortly after his 10 p.m. set time, Frank, in his trademark white and red bandana, took center-stage at a stool and was joined by an acoustic guitar player for a cover of Sade's 'By Your Side'. It was midway through the set's second song, 'Summer Remains' that the rest of the band joined in and the backdrop lit up with a multitude of spinning television projected with a barrage of images flashing before us.
The sold out crowd of 3000 knew every word and sang their hearts out much to Frank's pleasure. He had told the throngs of screaming girls, and guys, that he was feeling a little under the weather but did manage to enjoy everything Toronto has to offer on Monday after renting a bicycle. Lucky for him the screaming girls didn't seem to mind the lack of falsetto at times and chimed in for him whenever needed, which were few and far between. He gave it his all, and for a man that was sick, you wouldn't have known had he not said it.
It was during "Thinking About You" that one realized the true power a song can have, everyone in the crowd knew every word and managed to drown the actual singer's vocal out. The setlist encompassed new songs from channel ORANGE, songs from his mixtape Nostaliga Ultra, and a couple of covers including Coldplay's "Strawberry Swing" which segued into the song that made his name known the world over, the Jay-Z and Kanye West Watch the Throne gem "Made In America". This of course, from the opening note turned the sea of cellphones already out into an ocean.
While Frank's songwriting ability is nearly unparalleled in R&B it's his voice that truly had the audience in the palm of his hand. The typically baritone singer's vocal prowess and ability to alternate seamlessly between falsetto and tenor is what makes a Frank Ocean show and channel ORANGE an aural experience. If you have yet to listen to channel ORANGE do so now, even as a non R&B fan, you shan't be disappointed.