Frank Ocean is nowhere to be found at 10:05 pm in the windswept Californian desert. What’s a few additional minutes when the throng of spectators waiting in front of Coachella’s main stage for his headlining performance had waited six years for him to perform?

Thoughtless bystanders become ecstatic at the smallest change in front of them as the minutes slowly pass by. Those who were seated rush up when the moving red and blue lines on the stage’s giant screens vanish 15 minutes after Ocean is scheduled to start his set, leaving it entirely dark — unquestionably a sign that something is about to happen — only to be left hanging for a further 42 minutes.

A group of people in matching clothes start pacing around the stage minutes before Ocean actually show up. They persist well into the first part of the piece; it is unclear what they represent or what they serve as. The throng surrounding NME seems dissatisfied, but everything seems to be forgiven when the opening notes of the set’s opening song, “Novacane,” ring out.

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When the mysterious Ocean performs, he is so sublime that even if he had shown up even later, the audience would have almost forgiven him. The issue with his performance tonight is that he doesn’t spend a lot of time doing what the crowd wants to see. Yes, there are some surprise covers of Aretha Franklin’s “Night Life” and Aaliyah’s “At Your Best (You Are Love),” as well as a magnificent rendition of “Bad Religion” and a glitchy new version of “White Ferrari.” A mid-set “rave mix” by DJ CRYSTALLMESS, which combines artists like Underworld and Ice Spice, is also a lot of fun.

But his most popular songs, such as “Thinking ‘Bout You” and “Pyramids,” are missing, and occasionally, he just stands up from the microphone and dances to songs like “Nikes” and “Nights.” That may be a little more excused if he played more often than once in a blue moon. However, for years, fans had only listened to the recorded versions of his songs; they came to Coachella to see him play them instead. At one point, a man cries indignantly, “Why don’t you just sing?” as festival others around him nod in agreement.

Ocean strives to set the tone for the audience early on in the play. He says, “I wanna talk about why I’m here because it’s not because of a new album.” Not that a new record doesn’t exist, but as of now, there isn’t. Instead, he is performing as the headlining act this year as a memorial to his younger brother Ryan Breaux, who passed away in a vehicle accident in 2020. Although it is a heartfelt justification for the act, he is unable to appease the irate devout in front of him.

Related: Frank Ocean Has Finally Headlined Coachella 2023, and There’s A Lot To Talk About

The celebrity suddenly exits the stage just as it appears that he could be getting into his groove and ready to satisfy the crowd. The show is over, he returns a little while later and says, “Guys, I’m being told it’s curfew. I greatly appreciate it. And with that, aspirations for Frank Ocean to make a spectacular comeback are permanently dashed.


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