Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean at Bonnaroo in 2014 | Photo by FilmMagic

Frank Ocean’s Coachella Set Received Very Mixed Reviews

Frank Ocean’s Sunday night headlining set at Coachella was arguably the most eagerly anticipated set of the entire festival. Ocean hadn’t performed live in over six years, and hadn’t released an album since 2016’s acclaimed Blonde.

But the reviews of his set have been very mixed, even labelled a “rollercoaster” and a “disappointment”, after Ocean arrived more than an hour late and cut his set short due to the curfew of the festival site.

Ocean Flagged A New Album Wasn’t Imminent

Earlier in the day, it was announced the livestream for Ocean’s performance would not go ahead, leading many to assume Ocean had flat-out cancelled the performance. But he did arrive, albeit hidden slightly from the audience in a hooded parka, opening with ‘Novocane’ and ‘Come On World, You Can’t Go’, before diving into alternative renditions of ‘Crack Rock’ and ‘Bad Religion’.

The set was filled with stipped back versions of his biggest hits – as per Pitchfork, he delivered an acoustic ‘Pick + White’ and a bass-heavy version of ‘Solo’. His final song ended up being his cover of the Isley Brothers’ ‘(At Your Best) You Are Love’, before Ocean announced he had to end the show because of the curfew.

“Guys, I’m being told it’s curfew, so that’s the end of the show,” Ocean told the crowd. “Thank you so much.”

“People stayed put, believing it was maybe a bit even after the lights came on,” wrote The Guardian’s Adrian Horton. “It wasn’t, to the shock of many.”

During the show Ocean paid tribute to his late brother Ryan Breaux, who died in a car accident in 2020.  “These last couple years my life changed so much,” said Ocean. “My brother and I, we came to this festival a lot. I feel like I was dragged here so much of the time. I hated the dust; I always dealt with a respiratory infection.”

“I know [Ryan] would’ve been so excited to be here with all of us,” he continued. “I wanted to say thank you for the support and the ears and the love for all this time. I’m gonna get back to the songs.” 

During the show, Ocean also told the crowd his Coachella set wasn’t the start of a new album cycle. “I want to talk about why I’m here, because it’s not because of the new album,” Ocean said. “Not that there’s not a new album, but there’s not right now. It’s not right now.”

Complex called the entire set “chaotic”, and that it “did not sum up to a cohesive performance”.

“For a large group of people to have traveled perhaps thousands of miles, and certainly spent thousands of dollars, to experience one or a couple of (whom they consider) greats and be given the bare minimum (whilst those very “greats” are paid millions every 20-30 minutes each weekend), leaves a lot to be questioned,” Complex writer Ecleen Luzmila Caraballo argued.

Others called the performance “willfully elusive“, while UPROXX simply labelled it a “wild disappointment” and Insider dismissed it as “self-indulgent“.

You can see the full setlist below – Frank Ocean will perform next Sunday night for weekend two of Coachella.

Frank Ocean Coachella Set List

  1. Novacane
  2. Come on World, You Can’t Go!
  3. Crack Rock
  4. Bad Religion
  5. White Ferrari
  6. Pink + White
  7. Solo
  8. Chanel
  9. Rave mix with DJ Crystalmess
  10. Godspeed
  11. Wiseman
  12. Night Life [Willie Nelson cover]
  13. Self Control
  14. Nikes
  15. Nights
  16. (At Your Best) You Are Love [Isley Brothers cover]

Further Reading

Frank Ocean Fans Are Convinced a New Album is Coming

Frank Ocean, Bad Bunny and BLACKPINK to Headline Coachella 2023 – See Full Lineup

Love Letter to a Record: Emerson Leif on Frank Ocean’s ‘Blonde’

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