Frank Ocean & the Weeknd at Lollapalooza, 8/4/12

Frank Ocean at Lollapalooza 2012
Frank Ocean at Lollapalooza 2012
Photo by Erik Hess

See Also:
Lollapalooza 2012 suspended, resumed after dangerous weather conditions

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Best of Lollapalooza day three: At the Drive-in, Florence + the Machine and more
[Slideshow] Lollapalooza 2012 Day One: The Music
[Slideshow] Lollapalooza 2012 Day Two: The Music
[Slideshow] Lollapalooza 2012 Day Three: The Music
[Slideshow] Lollapalooza 2012: The People

Frank Ocean & the Weeknd
Lollapalooza at Grant Park, Chicago
Saturday, August 4, 2012

In case you haven't been paying attention, R&B is enjoying a new life. Forget everything you know about "that boy/that girl" subject matter and trade it in for a taste of drugs, sex, and regret. It all gets wrapped up in the emptiness of a lengthy party that gets mistaken for high society. Singers Abel Tesfaye and Christopher Breaux operate under the names The Weeknd and Frank Ocean respectively, and their recent contributions have done much to reshape the face of modern R&B. Both of them made noteworthy appearances during the second day of Lollapalooza, and they each had something different to say to a muddy festival crowd.

After a torrential downpour threatened to cancel his set, the Weeknd's Tesfaye hopped onstage backed by a full band, launching right into "High for This." Snarling bass could be felt a football field away as a mix of young and old festivalgoers tromped through puddles to hear Tesfaye's angelic falsetto sing about impossibly filthy encounters. The pitch problems that showed up midway through the Weeknd's visit to Minneapolis' First Avenue were nowhere to be found, and each high note was hit with an effortless skill.

And another thing, now we are starting to know what Testfaye actually looks like:

Frank Ocean & the Weeknd at Lollapalooza, 8/4/12
Photo by Erik Hess

Couples started a slow grind during "The Morning", but took breaks from gyrating to call out "all that money / the money is the motive" with Bud Lights held high. Running through tracks from his breakthrough mixtape, Tesfaye knocked out great renditions of "House of Balloons" and the slithering, shaking "Glass Table Girls." The crowd knew every lyric, singing his own songs back to him at full blast.

Frank Ocean & the Weeknd at Lollapalooza, 8/4/12
Photo by Erik Hess

The Weeknd's most impressive vocal award has to go to "The Birds Pt. 1," the live performance of which showed off the Toronto native's formidable range during a hushed coda. Tesfaye's musical vignettes shine a harsh light on the life of an unrepentant, self-destructive playboy, but the crowd seemed to care less about his words than the feeling of the syrup-smooth quiet storms that he's selling with that incredible voice. Closer "The Knowing" sounded like George Michael on a handful of tranquilizers, but what it lacked in physical verve it made up for with sheer druggy decadence.
While The Weeknd sins and snorts without much of a conscience to guide him, Frank Ocean sat on the other end of both the venue and the spectrum, contemplating his tribulations and trespasses in great detail. After an extended setup, Ocean appeared onstage sat atop a couple of speakers while an acoustic guitar strummed out chords from Sade's sublime "By Your Side."

Frank Ocean & the Weeknd at Lollapalooza, 8/4/12
Photo by Erik Hess

Though he's affiliated with rap upstart crew Odd Future, Ocean seems like he could care less about shocking anyone with sweet songs like "Summer Remains" and the tearjerking nostalgia of "Thinking About You," which was Ocean's standout performance of the night. Similar to The Weeknd's set, the crowd sang along to every note, but Ocean followed up by showing the crowd just how to do those impressive vocal runs correctly and drew huge applause in the process.

Closer "Pyramids" finished the best set of Day 2 with an epic funk odyssey lasting almost 10 minutes, a suitably grandiose finale to an evening full of great performances from R&B's freshest faces. Who could care about the rain (or the evacuation) when the aftermath offers such a treat?

Critic's Notebook

Critic's Bias: Fans of both The Weeknd and Frank Ocean with big hopes for both appearances. Neither disappointed in any way.

The Crowd: Singing along like everyone was in the shower at the same time.

Random Notebook Dump: Totally wished I could have heard "Wicked Games" and "Super Rich Kids".

Overheard in the Crowd: On my way to the Google Play stage, asked a group of girls on the same route if they were going for Twin Shadow or Frank Ocean. In unison, with giant smiles, "Frank Ocean!"

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