It was déjà vu at Randalls Island Friday as the public park hosted Day 1 of Panorama, the island’s second major music festival of the summer.
Governors Ball set the bar high in June with performances from Chance the Rapper, Lorde, Childish Gambino and more. But Panorama is shaping up to best that festival after just one day, as headliners Solange and Frank Ocean simply blew the crowd away with artful performances.
Here’s a rundown of everything we saw Friday at Panorama.
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The Chicago singer helped kick off the day with a show at the Parlor Stage that showcased her smooth vocals. Jamila Woods has the capability of turning up and slowing it down, and the recordings of her songs “Holy” and “Black Girl Soldier” are a perfect demonstration of this. But here she had backing from a band that was really grooving, and the way that this stage was set up made the sound even more amplified. She flawlessly delivered songs that had many people dancing.
HONNE look like the British Chainsmokers, but with infinitely more stage presence. For one, they play actual instruments along with their human backing band. HONNE relies less on pre-programmed beats than you might expect from listening to their mellow-soulelectro records, a refreshing break from their contemporaries. The best part? HONNE didn’t take themselves too seriously, bucking dance music’s most pervasive and tiresome cliché.
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This rapper’s show was so lit that the floor caved in. No, seriously. About four songs into Isaiah Rashad’s set in the dark, strangely put-together Parlor stage, the wooden platform separating fans’ feet from the grassy field partially collapsed because of a lot of jumping and moshing. The show stopped and never resumed, and the area was evacuated. The stage shuttered for the rest of the night, so several scheduled performances just didn’t happen. It’s a shame because Rashad was working it and, clearly, many people were feeling it — maybe a little too much.
MØ hasn’t released a full-length since her debut “No Mythologies to Follow” in 2014, but the Danish singer has been steadily cranking out hits as the featured vocalist on tracks with Major Lazer and Snakehips since then. Even if you couldn’t name a MØ song, there’s a great chance you’ve heard her signature, gutsy singing on the radio or in the club. Throughout her set, MØ gyrated and head-banged across the stage, belting out bangers like “Nights With You,” often finding refuge, red-faced, in the crowd. A stripped-down cover of Justin Bieber’s “Cold Water” offered a short break from non-stop intensity. But that vibe didn’t last long as she closed the set with stratospheric mega-hit “Lean On,” which drove the packed crowd into a frenzy.
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Spoon’s Pavilion Stage set was for the fans, not the critics. It was a performance that relied less on spectacle or pandering to passers-by, and more on a workman-like devotion to the songs. Spoon seemed to have more fun playing new cuts from this year’s “Hot Thoughts,” but the most enthusiastic crowd reaction was reserved for “The Underdog,” arguably the band’s biggest hit.
“Look out for the police,” Spoon frontman Britt Daniel said toward the close of the band’s Pavilion Stage set. “This is the Land of 1,000 Rules,” Daniel deadpanned before spiking his microphone. It was a final rock ‘n’ roll flourish for Friday’s most rock ‘n’ roll set.
Tyler, the Creator
Troll-in-chief Tyler, the Creator summoned the enthusiasm of his rowdy crowd for a very interesting set. He kicked things off with his first ever live performance of “Where This Flower Blooms,” and the crowd started jumping as they chanted along to the chorus “I rock, I roll, I bloom, I glow.” He seemed surprised everyone knew the lyrics to the song off his new album, “Flower Boy,” which officially dropped a week ago, and said the crowd’s reaction “was cute.” His set unsurprisingly bordered on comedic, starting when he told everyone to get photos out of the way, struck a few poses, then asked them to enjoy the show like normal people. Tyler’s setup was fun, with lots of fake sunflowers in the background and clouds hanging above. The new songs sounded tight, but relied heavily on his recordings, giving him ample time to goof off and dance between verses.
Although meteorologists might disagree, Solange was responsible for willing the clouds, which had hung around for most of the evening, to part just as the sun was setting. While many festival performances rely on spectacle, like massive set pieces or elaborate lighting schemes, Solange’s true power came from tasteful choreography involving her entire band, decked out in red from head to toe. Every facial expression, arm or leg extension and journey across the stage seemed pre-destined. Solange burned through most of her revolutionary 2016 LP, “A Seat at the Table,” proving to be an enthralling bandleader beyond her technical talents as a vocalist. The set’s peak came when an improbably large horn section joined Solange on-stage for “F.U.B.U.”
In short, Solange is a national treasure.
In what was the most anticipated set of the festival (and maybe the whole year), Frank Ocean finally surfaced on the main stage at 9:45 p.m. to deliver an experience that is hard to describe. It felt like Beatlemania, with fans screaming as the introverted, insanely talented singer came out, wearing a white T-shirt with black lettering asking, “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic when you can just be quiet?” Frank was kind enough to perform most of the songs on “Blonde,” as well as singles “Biking,” “Chanel” and “Lens.” His elaborate stage setup had director Spike Jonze filming him as he strolled about on a runway that bisected the center of the stage. The images he captured became distorted in artful ways and cast on a giant screen behind him. Ocean’s vocals were so crisp, fed back to him in a pair of headphones that stayed glued to his ears, it sounded like he was in the studio, aside from some welcome vocal runs. He also had support from live bass, guitar and drums, and Frank sometimes conjured beats at an elaborate sound tower in the middle of the runway.
While this setup led to some cancelled festival sets earlier in the year, all should be forgiven. Frank Ocean’s creative genius aside, the man gave careful consideration to his fans. Everyone had the opportunity to see him from all angles because of the runway — he never stayed in one place, which led him to jokingly ask for a chair in one of a few candid crowd interactions. He may be a man of few words, but Frank’s actions, his voice and his vision spoke volumes.
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