ROCK / Still better late than never: Joseph Gallivan finds Grace Jones in good shape at the Brixton Academy

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'WHAT TIME is it? Honey I don't even know what day it is]' It's three years now since Grace Jones excused her late arrival to a dwindling crowd of hecklers in this very auditorium. On that occasion, she was several hours late, then did a couple of numbers before her backing tapes crashed, allowing her to skip off back to her hotel. Well, any artist who has made her name as singer, actress, nude model, and willing flesh puppet to the designer Jean Paul Goude is bound to attract a fair old number of masochists, and here they were, back for more.

First, presumably to make the delay all the more delicious, there were the support 'acts'. The drag queens who run the Kinky Gerlinky nights put on a bad display of miming to pop hits. The fact that men built like linebackers are drawn to this hobby is merely curious. The fact that they tottered about the huge stage bumping into each other like drunken office workers was simply embarrassing. A duo on WEA called Link and Bikini were up next and were much the same, only they got paid. Then Nu Colours, the funky gospel quintet, made a surprise appearance, their talent and sobriety so at odds with everything else that it smacked of the promoters hedging their bets.

But Grace Jones had arrived, we were informed, and at one in the morning she made her spectacular entrance. Out of the darkness a figure hooded in black descended on a scaffolding gantry, with agonising slowness, to the sound of her sampled grunts. But when the lights flared up, Jones was the other side of the stage, 20 feet in the air atop an exaggerated black staircase, pedalling a single bass drum to the sound of a hard reggae skank. Wearing a gold mask and a baggy black fringed one-piece she scratched herself like a gibbon as her trademark yodel echoed round the room. Not many voices pierce the woolly blanket of the Academy's dreadful PA.

After a brief, dark pause she reappeared in a shiny black raincoat to do 'Walking in the Rain', with her two backing singers strutting about in rubber jeans and shades. Just as the Jones voice has lost none of its power over the years , the Jones body remains untouched by time. She's still hard and sleek all over, and with her lolloping gait and her long legs bandaged at the shins like a racehorse, she still plays up her animal nature.

Thus the third component, the Jones image, has worn well too. Her snarl is still quite authentic, and even the mock ravishment on the staircase by the rubber boys seemed realistically rough. In it, she had her brassiere ripped off, but continued the show bare-breasted, or sometimes semi-covered by a man's jacket. There is no other pop star so deeply stylised in her sexuality, yet so ingenuously at ease with it. She danced like a teenager in her new swingbeat track 'Seven Day Weekend', and strummed a black guitar for 'Warm Leatherette', laughing about having never picked one up before. A remarkable performance - while most pop veterans seem painfully past it, she showed how the decadent can be the most enduring.

(Photograph omitted)

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