Elusive R&B singer Frank Ocean performed at the Panorama Festival on Friday, his first concert in New York City in five years, in a set marked both for its intimacy and its elaborate production, headed by legendary film director Spike Jonze.
Rather than perform on a traditional stage, Ocean and his team created a runway and central platform that extended down the middle of the audience.
The set-up allowed Ocean to spend the set wandering up and down the runway, sitting calmly in a chair at the center, or hanging out at the front of the platform with a keyboard.
Fans that were lucky enough (or got there early) to make their way to the the closest third of the audience were gifted with a close-up view of Ocean, depending on which area of the crowd he decided to sing to during a song.
The central platform was arranged with a keyboard, a tapedeck, some speakers, and a few clear chairs for his band — who didn’t even come out for the first couple of songs and played from a pit below the stage.
At times, the set gave off the feeling of watching a recital or a jam session in someone’s living room, not a festival headliner.
The minimalist arrangement meshed well with Ocean’s spare style, but was contrasted by all the other elements that went into the production.
The main stage was reconfigured with a video screen that stretched 30 feet high and 170 feet wide, wrapping around the entire audience:
A kind of improvisational concert film played on the screen, with a team of camera operators running around the platform with Ocean, capturing his every move:
The camera work, which mixed ultra-HD and lo-fi video cameras, was directed by none other than Jonze, best known for “Her” and “Being John Malkovich.” Some have speculated that Jonze is working on a film project with Ocean; he filmed the singer’s concerts at FYF Festival in Los Angeles and Lovebox Festival in London earlier this month.
Here’s a look at the live film on screen, courtesy of Kendall Jenner (who was spotted at the show along with Justin Timberlake, Aziz Ansari, and other celebrities):
Adding to the production was an arrangment of speaker towers that wrapped around the entire crowd, allowing the music and Ocean’s voice to literally surround the fans as he sang.
Here’s the roadies testing the speaker arrangement to an anxious crowd shortly before Ocean went on:
If that wasn’t enough, fog machines, a projector, and a disco ball topped it all off.
But, of course, despite all of the production, the star of the show was Ocean, who had the crowd singing every word back to him.