Grace Jones is an icon in more ways than one. She’s a music icon, yes; undoubtedly she’s an avant-garde fashion icon too; and her film appearances and music videos warrant her some iconic status on the silver screen too. But she’s also an icon in spite of it, proudly sticking her tongue out at anyone who says she can’t act or speak the way she does, and creating a persona all of her own. Grace Jones is many things, and she displayed them all last night, her first show in Adelaide since 1982—all her virtues, talents, charisma, and especially, her flaws. This was a once-in-a-lifetime show.
Opening the Adelaide Festival, and staged on an unbelievably tranquil night at Adelaide’s Elder Park, Jones was late coming to the party but more than made up for it with an hour-and-a-half extravaganza, surfeit with circus acts, a multitude of costume changes, and more than one flag with Jones’ face printed on it (spoiler: there were two). Jones was front and centre, and everybody was in love with her. There was such a collective calm between artist and audience, that at times it was almost an intimate affair. Cue another costume change and an acrobatic pole dancer for good measure, and you were right back there with the crowd, soaking up every second. Speaking of costumes, they are immaculate—dressed only in a tight bodice and body paint, she dons layers of tulle and metal, and several elaborate headpieces, over each song.
Jones’ voice is as strong as ever. She gave every song her all, dancing and gyrating around the stage in six-inch heels with ease. From her opening number Nightclubbing, through hits like Warm Leatherette and My Jamaican Guy, Jones doesn’t let up. There is no doubt she is the star, and she makes it clear at one point by playfully reprimanding her assistant on-stage for a costume error. There are moments that spill startingly into unease, as she totters on a rickety stool to sing Piaf cover La vie en rose after quaffing a glass of wine. But it’s all part of the show; and who can say they weren’t loving this display as much as her equally controlled singing and dancing? As she sung Amazing Grace, the veil was pushed back and the audience saw the other side of Grace, one that pains, but draws amazing strength from that pain.
The two highlights from the night were her cover of Love is the Drug, complete with bowler-hat-cum-disco-ball, heart-poundingly good; only trumped by engine-fuelled Pull Up To The Bumper as Jones jumps onto the shoulders of a stage assistant to high-five the audience (and push away the more zealous hands). At 69, Jones is better than ever, and she proved as such last night with her Kate Bush-esque theatrics, boundless physicality, and tremendous soulfulness.
Reviewed by CJ McLean
Venue: Adelaide Riverbank, Elder Park
Season: N/A (one night only)
Duration: 1hr 30mins