Why was Frank Ocean’s Coachella performance cut short?

Among the few things that are certain in the world of music: Frank Ocean is going to do things his own way.

The venerated but highly enigmatic singer-songwriter performed live for the first time since 2017 on the mainstage at Coachella on Sunday night, playing a number of reworked hits before ending the show early due to the festival curfew.

The highly-anticipated set was clearly a thrill for his dedicated fan base, but many found the performance disappointing.

From hints at new music to a dedication to his late brother, here’s what went down on the polo field on Sunday.

A long time coming

Ocean’s last studio album — the seminal “Blonde” — came out way back in 2016. And though he’s released several (excellent) loosies and singles since then, he’s remained mostly in shadows. In 2020, Ocean was booked to headline that year’s Coachella, which was cancelled due to the pandemic.

In January, the largest festival in North America announced that Ocean would headline both weekends for its 2023 edition, fuelling speculation among fans that the 35-year-old artist would finally be releasing new music.

Livestream drama

Coachella ain’t cheap, but fortunately, the festival has partnered with YouTube to livestream most of the performances. As the weekend approached, Ocean fans who weren’t able to make the trek to the California desert cleared their Sunday schedules to witness the return in high-definition.

On Sunday afternoon, Coachella removed Ocean from its YouTube broadcast schedule, causing a minor panic on social media, as fans started worrying that he might not show up at all.

Better late than never

At long last, Ocean arrived on stage on Sunday night, albeit an hour late. Decked out in a blue puffer jacket with the hood up, Ocean opened his set with “Novacane,” his first ever single from 2011. He then performed a string of career-ranging songs — many of them stripped-back or reworked — including “Crack Rock,” “Bad Religion” and “White Ferrari.”

Frank addresses the crowd

Ocean finally addressed the audience after performing several songs, giving a cryptic response to the speculation about new music.

“I want to talk about why I’m here, because it’s not because of the new album. Not that there’s not a new album, but there’s not right now. It’s not right now.” Right.

He then paid tribute to his brother, Ryan Breaux, who died at the age of 18 in 2020 after a tragic car accident.

“These last couple years my life changed so much. My brother and I, we came to this festival a lot,” he said. “I know he would’ve been so excited to be here with all of us. I wanted to say thank you for the support and the ears and the love for all this time.”

A musical detour

Following renditions of “Solo” and a “Chanel,” the show pivoted into an extended interlude featuring DJ Crystal Mess, who played a series of club remixes of Ocean songs and songs from other artists.

“During the mix and at other points during the set, Ocean strayed from the mic and danced or paced the stage while his pre-recorded vocals played,” Pitchfork reported.

A short set

Following the DJ set, Ocean performed a handful of songs, including the live debut of “Godspeed,” a cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Night Life,” and an acoustic version of fan favourite “Self Control.” He also played pre-recorded versions of “Nights” and “Nikes.”

His ended the set with the live debut of cover Aaliyah’s song “At Your Best (You Are Love)” (which was originally a song by The Isley Brothers).

Ocean then addressed the crowd again: “Guys I’m being told it’s curfew, so that’s the end of the show. Thank you so much.”

How did fans react?

What will next weekend hold?

The second weekend of Coachella takes place April 21 to 23, and will once again feature performances from Bad Bunny, Blackpink and Ocean.

Fans are already wondering what Ocean’s next performance will hold.


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