Dallas There aren't many musicians these days who can change the temperature in a room simply by stepping on stage.
Frank Ocean is such an artist. Friday night, as he appeared in front of an ecstatic, sold-out South Side Music Hall, the already sweltering space became even more so, as the audience seemed to surge towards the foot of the stage, screaming with cell phones outstretched and flashes popping. The 24-year-old New Orleans native, born Christopher Breaux, soaked it up with a confident grin.
He is the man of the moment, thanks to his association with controversial hip-hop collective Odd Future, his glowingly reviewed debut LP, Channel Orange, and his bold, online admission prior to the record's release about his poly-sexual love life. Thankfully, his 75-minute performance backed up the hype -- not that the shrieking crowd would have necessarily cared if he turned in a sloppy showing.
Ocean touched all the bases of his nascent career during his Dallas debut, from last year's superb mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra to this year's Orange, and even dropped a couple verses from Made in America, one of his two guest spots on Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne. Backed by a four-piece band that supplemented pre-recorded backing tracks, Ocean's gorgeous falsetto was in full effect, and he toggled easily between laid-back rapping and earnest singing. While his songs, steeped in visceral feeling and rooted in acute pain, lose a bit of their intimacy in concert, the less studied and more open presentation still allows him to showcase his flourishing talents.
Frank Ocean is not easily pinned down, swinging as he does from hip-hop to R&B and pop and back again. And while he's currently enjoying the spotlight's glare, basking in the adoration of roomfuls of people singing every line back to him, his skills also suggest he'll continue to create fascinating and compelling music for years to come. After all, heat can only continue to rise.