grace Jones appears on stage at the Royal Festival Hall in silhouette: a long, impossibly thin figure in a huge hat, framed in an oblong of white light at the top of a staircase. It could be an image from A One Man Show, the 1981 tour and the “video album” that followed. trendy in arty pop cool 40 years ago: a series of beautifully staged and stunningly lit vignettes featuring Jones in costume, a perfectly balanced figure at their center.
As she walks down the nightclubbing-tinged stairs, opening the Meltdown festival she’s hosting, Jones looks impossibly elegant and oddly unchanged. She’s dressed in a suit and heels again, and the huge hat eventually comes off to reveal precisely the kind of flat haircut she sported in the early ’80s, while her sprechgesang the voice remains as imposing as ever. But a few weeks after his 74th birthday, Jones feels less an icy figure than a cheerful agent of utter chaos.
Her conversation between songs ranges from gnomic — “It’s been a long time,” she grumbles, “like no time at all” — to so out there that it even seems to confuse her: “Did it have fucking sense to you? she frowns. His performance of My Jamaican Guy ends with Jones at the top of the stairs, flat on his back, legs in the air, kicking the scissors. There are many costume changes, but not all costumes are able to contain the woman wearing them: “Maybe you’ll see tits,” she says, warning of another wardrobe malfunction. At one point, accompanied by a gospel choir, she sings the old hymn Amazing Grace prostrated on the stage, a performance that concludes with a stagehand dragging her backstage by the ankles.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the show is that the music doesn’t feel overshadowed by the performance. There are a few new songs: the best one is steeped in Afrobeat and features a chorus of “I’ll paint you all black,” a line Jones returns to long after the track ends, barking at the above. stagehand between songs. But the set mostly draws inspiration from his early ’80s albums: Demolition Man and Walking in the Rain (both from Nightclubbing), and a version of Roxy Music’s Love Is the Drug that turns the song upside down, replacing its mood. cross-eyed with an almost threatening air. emergency. The tracks still sound like nothing else in pop, occupying a unique space between reggae and post-punk, their mood managing to be both distant and emotional. A performance by the autobiographical Williams’ Blood highlights just how good his last studio album, Hurricane (now 14 years old), was.
A sort of climax is reached with Slave to the Rhythm. Jones performs it by standing on a platform and hula-hooping, an activity that causes another wardrobe malfunction: she tries to cover herself appropriately with the hand that isn’t holding her front mic. to give up. It’s the sort of sight you should, theoretically, be gawking at – it’s not every day that the Royal Festival Hall sees a 74-year-old woman doing a half-shirtless hula hoop – but people are not not speechless. The whole audience is on their feet, dancing and singing. It’s a show that says a lot about what a transcendent song, Slave to the Rhythm, is and the utterly inimitable artist that Grace Jones continues to be.