Grace Jones, Royal Albert Hall, London


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The Independent Culture

As a child, I was always terrified of Grace Jones. She was this demented collection of legs, cheekbones and thousand-yard stares, and she came with a fearsome reputation for being, basically, madder than a barrel of monkeys.

The show she puts on, all two vigorous hours of it, lives entirely up to this reputation. It's an astonishing performance, unexpected but wonderful for its sheer single-minded energy. She howls, she prances, and she works her way through half a dozen or more costume changes, each one more, shall we say, structurally accomplished than the last.

She kicks things off dressed up as a kind of demoniac Fifth Element zebra, capering around, tossing back a long white mane and invoking the devil. The costume silhouettes her against the huge white screen at the back of the stage, like a 20ft new-wave Baphomet. Her movements are sinuous flicks and arched limbs, like she's on a catwalk in the 1980s. Everything she does, in fact, she does like she's on a catwalk in the 1980s.

Her patter is also totally next level, as she purrs dementedly away at 90 degrees to the rest of reality. She chats to a packed house with the easy confidence of a woman who knows she has fearsome presence. She also knows that she can say absolutely anything no matter how loopy, and that the crowd will still love her for it.

The music seems almost inconsequential in the face of the spectacle cavorting before us, but it is all very powerful, idiosyncratic stuff. We're granted a mix of her earlier period disco material, as well as some of the more recent, heavier trip-hop. It's all arresting stuff, anyway.

The next get-up is quite a sight; like a flamenco dancer wearing a spiky red wedding cake from the front, and like Grace Jones's almost entirely naked backside from the rear – as though the costume's been cut in half, leaving only a very tenacious, very small white g-string behind. She gets a cheer when she twirls in that.