After six years without a public show, Frank Ocean returned to the spotlight Sunday night, closing out the first weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival with a set of intimate solos and new music — but the finale’s dramatic dud was cut short. Curfew rules.
The elusive pop-soul star, known for his visionary albums “Blonde” and “Channel Orange,” performed for more than an hour on the festival’s main Coachella stage Sunday night. But Ocean was forced to end the show around 12.20am on Monday, after starting the show almost an hour late.
“Guys, I’m being told it’s curfew, so it’s the end of the show. Thank you so much,” Ocean said suddenly after singing. (Coachella typically has a midnight curfew for Sunday shows.)
The disjointed ending left many fans in disbelief, especially since the show has been coming up for so long. Ocean was originally scheduled to headline Coachella in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to be canceled, and the singer was unavailable to perform during the festival’s return last year.
“Everybody’s talking about, ‘It’s been too long, it’s been too long,’ but I miss you,” Ocean told Rapture earlier in the set.
As frustrating as it was for fans, Ocean’s performance, along with headliners Bad Bunny and Blackpink on Friday and Saturday, was still a history-maker: On Sunday, Ocean became the first openly gay man to headline the internationally popular festival.
Ocean, dressed in a blue zip-up jacket and a black durag, began his collection with a style as unique and mysterious as the star himself. Before he came to the stage, a crowd of people wearing hats and face coverings slowly marched towards the stage in a circle, with large floodlights between them and the crowd, preventing any clear line of sight. The strange arrangement, which was shown to the audience on big screens, echoed Ocean’s 2016 visual album “Endless”.
When he finally emerged, Ocean opened his set with “Noveken,” before launching into a few “Channel Orange” songs, including “Nostalgia, Ultra,” “Crack Rock,” and “Bad Religion.”
Floodlights dangled across the ocean–usually dimly lit stage–into the audience for the first few songs, before the singer introduced himself in full view to the large audience gathered at the Empire Polo Club.
Although Ocean hasn’t released a new album since 2016, the 35-year-old has released several singles since then, and played a few of the Sunday editions, notably remixes of “Channel” and “Presenter” to applause.
Ocean, whose fans are constantly trying to get any hints about his next album, also briefly revealed new music, though he told the crowd: “I’m not here just because there’s an album, it doesn’t mean there’s not a new album.” He then played a song called “Inner Boy,” featuring a young boy sitting down and playing the piano, matching the lyrics to Ocean’s latest work.
Ocean briefly spoke of the family’s tragedy when his 18-year-old brother, Ryan Brews, died in a car accident in Thousand Oaks in October 2020. Addressing the crowd, he said his life had “changed a lot” in the past two years.
“My brother and I have been to this festival many times, and I feel like I’ve been dragged here half the time,” Ocean said. One of my fondest memories was seeing Rey Sremmord with my brother and (our friend) Travis.
“I know he’s thrilled to be here with all of us today, and I want to say thank you for all of your support and ears and love throughout this time,” Ocean added. “I’ll get back to the songs now.”
Fans heard several songs from “Blonde,” including remixed versions of “Solo” and “Pink+White,” with Ocean playing over the speakers while casually dancing and grooving to the beat. Perhaps the best moment of the night came when he played “Nikes” and “Nights” back-to-back, seamlessly transitioning between the two. Soon after, he announced that the concert was over due to curfew regulations.
In the end, his performance wasn’t enough for many fans who were upset by the sudden ending, with some screaming and others crying as the truth came out. Casual fans couldn’t even hear some of Ocean’s hits like “Thinkin Bout You.” ” and “Pyramids” because the show was shortened.
Ocean still reminded fans of his generational talent Sunday night, hitting some high notes and hinting at the enigmatic music he’s been working on. But unfortunately, the curfews eventually stole the limelight.
Tom Coulter covers the Mid Valley for Desert Sun and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.