The ever-elusive Frank Ocean hasn’t performed live for seven years.

Even though he was scheduled to be Coachella 2023’s third and last headlining performer, fans weren’t sure if he would actually appear. In addition to having “NO FRANK OCEAN MERCHANDISE” signs all throughout the merch tent, his performance was not included in the official Coachella webcast on YouTube. The main stage lights were dimmed at 10:55 p.m., about an hour after he was due to appear, and the unexpected show finally got underway.

Frank had the stage converted into a single enormous screen, so the fact that it occurred was not the only surprise. Because of this, there was just a tiny square of area that could hardly be seen, but for the next hour and a half, that’s where everything happened, until Frank suddenly declared from backstage, “Guys, I’m being told it’s curfew, so that’s the end of the show.”

The eagerly awaited performance took place three years after the festival’s 2020 edition, which was postponed due to COVID, was set to include Frank, Travis Scott, and Rage Against the Machine as headliners. Coachella co-founder and CEO Paul Tollet guaranteed in a 2021 interview that Frank would be the only musician to remain at the top of the lineup, and Frank produced an incredible, if not outlandish, set that had the audience hanging on every word. Who knew when we might see him again after Sunday night.

The desert acted as Frank’s backdrop anytime the camera showed his POV from the center of it all — until he chose not to be — making the “Met her at Coachella” phrase from set opener “Novacane” hit different there.

The following five key points from Frank Ocean’s Coachella 2023 headline performance.

The Set-Up Was Deceptively Intimate

Frank and his team carefully planned his headlining stage to resemble a recording studio, with Frank slumped over a mic in the middle as a live band fiddled about behind him and studio personnel complied with his every request, while appearing in front of tens of thousands of spectators. In spite of the close proximity, he would occasionally raise the hood of his blue puffer coat to conceal his black durag and most of his face, leaving only his long beard sticking out.

The reclusive musician also gave fans a preview of brand-new music while providing an extraordinarily uncommon look into his creative process. While the audience couldn’t actually see what was going on or where Frank was, the high-definition video stream filled in some of the blanks with gritty and occasionally jarringly grainy footage that unfolded like a live documentary that could only be experienced in the moment.

Related: YouTube Will Continue To Stream Coachella Through 2026

He Reimagined His Most-Beloved Songs

Between Frank’s 2011 debut mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra and his 2016 masterpiece Blonde, the performer dealt with the two-fold problem that every performer encounters: 1) Which songs ought I to play? and 2) How can I distinguish them for this audience? He overcame the problem by performing his iconic singles in previously unheard configurations, such as a stripped-down, acoustic rendition of “Pink + White,” a turned-up remix of “Solo,” a drill cut of “Chanel,” a punk rock remix of “Wiseman,” and many others. However, none of those crowd favorites ended the performance; instead, Frank delved into his career and chose his cover of Aaliyah’s “At Your Best (You Are Love),” which was included on his 2016 visual album Endless.

There Was a Rave Intermission… And It Worked

Frank honed in on DJ Crystalmess toward the end of his set. Frank described her set within a performance as “you can’t even see Frank Ocean but you get a little rave mix in the middle of the show.” She put together her own remixes of Frank’s songs, including a bounce edit of “Pyramids” that had one scene-stealing security guard twerking like there was no tomorrow and a Jersey Club remix of “Slide,” which Calvin Harris had performed the previous night on the same stage. All of this was recorded and displayed as part of Frank’s live feed.

The sole visitor for the evening arrived at the rave as well: Frank’s tiny date for the 2021 Met Gala, a lime green robotic baby doll.

In 2020, Frank recounted, “I was just beginning to throw parties in little clubs in New York that were just getting started before sh- started closing down.” And I was having so much fun making playlists, listening to so much fresh music, and running into up-and-coming DJs who were on their game. With my new weekly project and the Homer Radio that we’ve been working on at [Apple Music 1], it has really gotten ingrained in my routine. That it isn’t always about me is a wonderful thing.

He Sort of Debuted a New Song

A young boy named Josiah, who was intended to represent Frank’s own inner child, started playing the piano and lip-syncing to him as he sang a new song as the term “Inner Child” began to circle around a screen within the stage. Frank, who introduced Josiah to the Coachella crowd as quickly as he was fired in the brief but heartwarming moment, was wearing a black durag that looked a lot like the one Josiah was wearing.

He Honored His Late Brother Ryan

It has been a long time. But I have missed you,” Frank said to the crowd before making an ambiguous reference to the elephant in the desert. “I want to discuss my purpose for being here since it is not to promote a new record… Not that a new album doesn’t exist, he teased. Then he calmed down the rowdy crowd so he could explain why he had decided to return to the event where he had made his debut almost ten years earlier. “You know, my life has changed so dramatically in the last couple of years…. In reference to his late brother Ryan Breaux, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 18 after being involved in a car accident, he added, “My brother and I, we came to this event a lot.

“I always left with a respiratory infection or something because I loathed the dust out here, so I feel like I was dragged out here half the time. I would try to stay away, but I would always find myself here. Watching Rae Sremmurd on I don’t know what that stage is called with my brother is one of my favorite memories. I don’t know if Travis/Taco is present, but Travis [Bennett] and I were just dancing in that tent to their music, and I know he would have been over the moon to be here with the rest of us. I would want to express my gratitude for your love, support, and listening over the years.

Even during the live performances of “Nikes” and “Nights,” two of his most popular songs, Frank chose to sing other songs instead. Instead, he pranced around the stage and played for the camera while grinning real smiles that revealed a grill on one of his front teeth.


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