He sang beautifully and also nonchalantly — as shows of this size go, the performance was astonishingly quiet. He stuck largely to his recent albums, in arrangements that at times felt gestural. “Solo,” which began the set, was firm and urgent, and “Nikes,” which ended it, was seductively sleepy-eyed. In between, he made room for indignation (the “Poolside Convo” intro to “Self Control”), plangent nostalgia (“Nights”) and asking the crowd to access “the mental energy to go back to that awful painful place like I have to when I’m up here,” before singing the sweetly anguished “Ivy.”
Though he occasionally sauntered back to the main stage, he mostly sang on a circular platform, maybe 15 feet in diameter and about 50 feet into the crowd, where he was surrounded by musical equipment and a handful of beautifully designed chairs. These sometimes held members of his band, who picked at their instruments the way laconic teenagers pick at vegetables, just enough to make it clear they’re paying attention.
Mr. Ocean moved constantly, but rarely in relation to the crowd — everything had the air of improvisation, the do-it-yourself feel of a warehouse show or an experimental-music room.
Arena shows of late have become fully three-dimensional, using the sky above the crowd as a secondary stage, turning concerts into theaters of suffocation — there is nowhere to turn where there is not some action.
This is a dynamic that Mr. Ocean more or less demolished. Certainly, headlining an outdoor festival is different — you cannot beat the sky — but the urge to overwhelm typically remains. Mr. Ocean’s reticence was more than a statement about excess; it proved you can translate intimacy on a giant scale.