Backstage With Bella

The Reluctant Rock Star

Live Review: Frank Ocean at Bråvalla Festival 28 June 2013

Whispers and speculations about who might have secured an interview with him have been going round the press centre at Bråvalla Festival all morning. It turns out no one has managed to lure critic darling Frank Ocean into a chat and so he remains an enigma, a Grammy winning trophy journalists dream to meet.

His crew, hip hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All owned the festival earlier this afternoon as they performed a consistently rude yet rad set. Their violent rap managed to both intimidate and intrigue, sending the crowd wild, and yet the feel surrounding Ocean’s gig this evening is quite different.

I say gig but it is more like a concert; a performance complete with a mini orchestra, moody lighting and a rather reluctant rock star.

Starting with a twisted ‘California’ and continuing with a rocked up version of ‘Novacane’ Ocean gets an anticipating audience contently swinging from side to side. On stage Ocean is smooth, thoughtful and somewhat reserved. It’s hard to picture him among the swearing hat wearers.

“It’s beautiful out here right now,” he says, pointing to the light pink sky so typical of Swedish summer nights. Just what I had pictured him saying when daydreaming about that elusive interview; I thought he’d be the kind of guy to appreciate a good sunset.

‘Super Rich Kids’ kicks in and the audience members who imagined another party gig in line with (this afternoon’s) Hoffmaestro are starting to get itchy feet; chatter rises over the delicate soul music and many decide drinking is a better option. I move forwards in the loosely gathered crowd and catch full sight of the humble singer clad in stripes.

“That’s good, next one,” he says softly. I sense Ocean is in a rush and it’s a shame. Or maybe it’s me wanting this moment to last forever.

‘Pilot Jones’ is stripped back and the six suited musicians take focus. Somewhat lost in thought, Ocean begins to relax. He does a subtle solo grind dance and he asks if we are feeling the love this evening.

“I am. Fuck it. Fuck it. I love you back, I love you back, I love you back.”

I am not the only one to raise my hands signing a heart.

Raw ballad ‘Bad Religion’ is performed with a stage bathing in red light. Ocean’s falsetto reaches almost painful levels and the hurt in his voice trembles as he sings a pitch perfect story about unrequited love. The emotion translates all too well and it may be the warmth in the air or the smoke being pumped out on stage but it’s as if there’s a glow surrounding this gifted young singer. He sips his tea between songs and a balloon makes its way above our heads.

“Would you look at that sky. It’s meant to be dark right now,” he says and chuckles sweetly.

The concert is coming to an end but before it’s over we get to sing along to ‘Thinking About You’ (it’s only slightly awkward when we can’t hit the high note) and Ocean leaves us with a message blasted across his back drop:

“In A Dream You Saw A Way To Survive And You Were Full Of Joy”.

My dream of meeting this great poet and performer in person grows fonder as Frank Ocean leaves the stage after an absolutely flawless concert. He didn’t perform my personal favourite ‘Dust’ but one day I do hope to hear him sing that mantra of mine. Until then keep writing, keep living, keep loving….

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