Grace Jones, The Roundhouse, London
Thursday 29 January 2009
I can safely say that there aren't any other gigs I've witnessed when the highlight of the evening involved a 60-year-old semi-naked woman hula-hooping in a glittery cat mask. But you wouldn't expect anything less from disco diva-cum-style icon Grace Jones. Last year saw her back in the charts after a self-enforced two-decade exile from the recording studio, and tonight is the first of three London shows that bring to the close her eight-date UK tour to promote the new album, Hurricane.
The anticipation in the Roundhouse is palpable, and indeed, a large part of the audience appear to be die-hard fans from the Eighties who have been craving to catch a glimpse of their goddess in the flesh ever since. There's as much fancy millinery and expensive footwear on display at the bar as at a catwalk show. Ms Jones appears a (fashionable) hour later than billed, posing atop a platform in a feathered hat, wearing a corset and revealing legs that would look fantastic on a 20-year-old, let alone someone with a son in his twenties. She launches into a slow, smouldering version of "Nightclubbing" as the platform descends to stage-level, before slipping into the wings for the first of the many costume changes that take place after every song. Hidden from view, she regales her adoring masses with risqué monologues: "First I'm gonna blow you softly, then I'm gonna blow you hard."
With a new Philip Treacy creation carefully positioned, it's back to centre stage to rejoin her accomplished six-piece band and backing singers for the first of the tracks from the new album, "This Is". It's warmly received.
For the rest of the show, Grace continues to intersperse the old with the new, serving up polished versions of classics, "My Jamaican Guy", "Demolition Man" and "La Vie en Rose", alongside new offerings, "Well, Well, Well" and "William's Blood". The last one, the best track on Hurricane, sees Ms Jones gyrating under a red spotlight, and belting out the autobiographical track with real passion. It's pure theatre and receives rapturous applause.
"Pull Up to the Bumper" sees the Amazonian singer turn her back to the audience, cheekily shaking her near- naked bottom to the beat and wolf whistles from the crowd. A rather sanitised, staged stage-invasion then occurs, allowing some of the beautiful young things at the front to preen alongside their heroine, while ticker tape cascades down. If there is to be one criticism of the show, it's that the staged elements are not quite bold enough. Maybe a bigger budget would produce the truly awe-inspiring event that she is quite clearly capable of.
But back to that hula hoop. The singer keeps the pink fluoro piece of plastic gyrating for the length of "Slave to the Rhythm", not skipping a beat. It's impressive stuff. She follows this with the title track off the new album, facing off to a huge wind-machine that billows her costume behind her. A perfect finale and a cracking return to form. Welcome back, Grace.
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