Grace Jones at The Palais Theatre, Melbourne, Monday February 26, 2018.
I don’t know what the World Record for hula hooping is, but guaranteed the holder wasn’t performing Slave To The Rhythm in bodypaint and a headpiece the size of a pony while doing it. They probably weren’t just shy of their 70th birthday, either.
Such was just one of the many delights from New Wave queen Grace Jones at The Palais on Monday night; the Jamaican-born singer/songwriter/model/producer/actress is a breed of artist with few peers, and she needed absolutely nobody to prop her shockingly good performance.
Opening with Nightclubbing (from the ’81 album of the same name), Jones appeared on a plinth at the back of The Palais’ stage in the first of about 15 costumes: a gold skull mask with an enormous, black, feathered headpiece, and a cape which billowed around her white-daubed limbs. She then prowled down several levels of stairs in platform-needle heels with what I’m approximating as 15% vision under the face-coverings. Backed by two female vocalists and maybe five other musicians (it was hard to tear my eyes off her long enough to count, to be honest) which included her own son, Jones’ voice was awesomely alarming: every single note spot-on, with lashes of that operatic vibrato which could split seas.
The vocalist’s dry sense of humour followed her to each costume rotation off-stage; we could hear her singing a commentary along with the band’s transitions while she went from golden Egyptian-inspired helmet to massive hoop skirt with long silver ribbons to a red transparent frisbee bonnet (“Strange, so strange… no time to change”). After 1980 hit Private Life, she requested a red wine (which she neatly downed), took up a pair of hand-held crash cymbals, and launched into Warm Leatherette. One precisely-aimed laser light at her sparkling head made her look like an alien offering, while to her left and right crept a lithe pole dancer and a demon with a flag fetish – the only two dancers who appeared throughout the show.
“Happy New Year, Happy Birthdays I missed, and all the… Oh God!” Jones exclaimed after a gorgeous rendition of La Vie En Rose (the blood-red costume for which I don’t even know how to describe). “Music scene, you make me silly! I like silly!” Her feline purrs and shrieks punctuated Love Is The Drug, after which gold confetti rained and she was carried, beaming, around the stalls by some very proud men, for Pull Up To The Bumper. Jones slammed her fist into her chest and into the air, punctuating every accent.
Her encore song was a new, heavy-industrial thumper, and simply but stunningly lit: a spotlight shone from the left of the stage and Jones writhed towards it in Maleficent horns, looking like an insect with a heaving thorax, drawn to the light but repelled but its heat. “I am woman, I am sun,” she sang. “I’m tearing down trees.”
Suffice to say I could have upended an oak after such a display… and I don’t know who’s going to top it. Put a fork in me, I’m done.