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Grace Jones, we’re all slaves to your rhythm

Adelaide Festival

Grace Jones’ open-air concert in Elder Park shows she is still a reigning rock goddess: fierce, funny, sexy, outrageous … and completely electrifying.

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Jones is about 45 minutes late to the outdoor stage for her Adelaide Festival opening-night concert. Rumour has it she’s finishing off a bottle of Cristal champagne, but no one really expects punctuality from rock royalty.

When we do eventually hear the words “Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Grace Jones”, the spotlight falls on a statuesque figure atop an elevated platform.

Cue collective intake of breath.

Even if you’ve seen images of Jones in her terrifying gold-skull face mask, spiked mane, tiny corset and full body paint (she rocks it – at 69!), nothing quite prepares you for the real thing, amplified by two large screens.

Are we ready to party? Yeah, mon!

Photo: Tony Lewis

It’s fitting that the show kicks off with “Nightclubbing”, for it feels kind of like we’re being led deep down into a dark, weird and wild underground club-like cavern; an altered reality where the inimitable Grace Jones reigns supreme and commands our undivided attention through every twist and turn.

And there are many twists and turns as the diva prowls the stage – sometimes singing while perched on a stool or writhing by a pole, sometimes crouched on all fours, and occasionally dancing with wine glass in hand.

“Don’t worry it ain’t the wine, honey, it’s the shoes,” she growls as she takes a minor stumble.

With a brilliant band (including her son on percussion) and two backing singers, she delivers all the hits, both originals and covers – including “Private Life”, “Warm Leatherette”, “My Jamaican Guy”, “Love is the Drug” and “La Vie en Rose” – plus a “naughty” new song which is performed alongside a body-painted male pole dancer and sees her exhorting “smoke the weed, smoke the ganja, get higher”.

As the show progresses, Jones engages more and more with her audience, some of whom are seated in rows front of stage while others are spread around the park with picnic blankets and BYO chairs. She delivers banter that’s cheeky and packed with innuendo (“Adelaide, Adelaide, Adelaide, I wanna get laid – I wrote that last night”), and urges us to respond to her questions in the correct Jamaican manner: “Yeah, mon!”.

Photo: Tony Lewis

Each track brings a slight change of outfit – from grass skirt, to tails and sequined bowler hat, red cape, a horse’s mane and tail, a tutu headdress. At one point, there’s a costume mix-up which results in a quick on-stage adjustment and a spanking for the obliging stage hand.

There are a couple of moments when Jones’s voice seems to falter, but when she’s really belting it out she is as formidable as ever. One of those times is when she treats us to a few lines from “Amazing Grace”, quipping afterwards: “I sang that in Jamaica when they used to call me Bev, short for Beverly”.

Photo: Tony Lewis

The absolute highlights of the show come at the end. First with “Pull Up to the Bumper”, which draws the audience to its feet when Jones ventures off stage and into the crowd on the shoulders of a security guard as gold confetti rains down from above, then as she hula-hoops while performing an extended (very extended, like around 20 minutes) version of the hit “Slave to the Rhythm”.

It feels like this is the moment everyone has been waiting for. We’re all slaves to the diva’s rhythm as she holds us in thrall with her deep, throaty voice, physical prowess and wicked ways.

Grace, you first turned my head as a teenager who was roused not just by your music but by your androgynous beauty and the feminine power you embodied. Decades later, I still think you’re amazing.

Grace Jones performed one show only in Elder Park as part of the 2018 Adelaide Festival program. Read more InDaily Adelaide Festival stories and reviews here.

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