Gig Review - Grace Jones

Sunday 25th January 2009 @ Colston Hall

Grace Jones is of a rare breed. As is the mark of the great auteur, she manages to exist above the zeitgeist and seem perpetually avant-garde – a remarkable feat considering she’s approaching her fifth decade as a performer; though shaman or sorceress would be an equally apt description considering how she’s apparently defied age and gravity by retaining the startling cut-glass features and serpentile physique of her commercial peak some twenty-five years ago (how d’you like them apples, Mr Newton!).

So, like the great Ju Ju atop the mountain, Grace is revealed from behind a dropped curtain to start the show standing on top a dauntingly high hydraulic podium, surveying her audience and greeted by collective rapture. There’s no subjective consciousness tonight, everyone is wired to the same circuit board. “Ladies and gentlemen: Miss Grace Jones!”

A master of aesthetics, she kicks-off with Iggy Pop cover, Nightclubbing. In Iggy’s hands this is the sound of submission to drug addiction; in Grace’s, a triumph over time and space. Only a born performer and pop alchemist could pull this off. Here-today-gone-tomorrow ‘Nu-pop’ starlets could learn a trick or two from this.

The majority of the set comes from Grace’s late seventies/early eighties classic, Island period, with the rest from her new album, Hurricane (her first in over nineteen years) on which she collaborated with various artists including Bristol’s own, Tricky. You can’t help but salivate at the thought of a Jones collaboration with the sonic innovation of a producer-extraordinaire like Missy Elliot.

Nonetheless, the show ends with the new album’s title track slowed down from its original 1997 unreleased version, given a new dub texture and so good it deserves its own sentence.

In between we’re treated to all the big-hats and big-disco tracks you expect from a Grace Jones experience. Slave To The Rhythm predictably blows the roof off. The biggest surprise is just how much she rocks-out with her new band; especially during her cover of Police song Demolition Man (there’s that turning-shit-into-gold alchemy again).

If great pop is great theatre (and it is) then Grace Jones is one of pop’s greatest thespians. Not because she manages a costume change between each song, blasts the audience with a whole eco-system worth of confetti during the bump-and-grind of Pull Up To The Bumper; or even that at her best she approaches an almost Artaudian theatre with her array of bizarre head-dress, intense lighting and precise language of gestures and movement, rather, it’s because through all this she manages to produce a total sensory experience.

It’s tempting to end by bemoaning the lack of anyone even remotely ready to replace her at the top of the mountain but perhaps we should just revel in the sheer sonic and ocular delight of it all. Besides, at this rate Grace could well still be going in another five decades, so long live the great Ju Ju!

James Davey

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