When Grace Jones finally came into view at New York's Roseland Ballroom, it was 9:40 p.m. "What if she no-shows?" one onlooker gasped, mock-horrified. The real question, of course, was: What is she going to wear?
In this case, it was a spinning white neon headpiece that could be seen moving up and down a small platform erected mid-stage as she moaned her opener, "Nightclubbing." The phantom shtick perfectly set up the show, a thrilling two hours that found Jones playing the diva to the hilt, enabled by a crack band including Paulo Goude – Jones' son with French art director Jean Paul Goude – on keyboards. When the lights came on for "This Is the Life," from Jones' 2010 album, Hurricane, we got the full view: gold mask/two-foot-high headpiece combo, black top and thong, very fine-mesh stockings, strappy and very high heels.
It was the weekend before Halloween, so Roseland was packed with costumes, many full of outlandish headgear. But the best belonged to Jones, who affixed something new to her cranium with every song. Highlights includes the heavily fringed number – with matching jacket, very flapper-gone-hippie – she brought out for "My Jamaican Guy" early on, and the oversized smiley-face logo she wore for "Pull Up to the Bumper." (She also had a pony's tail – not "ponytail.") During "Love Is the Drug," a jittery bright pink spotlight reflected off Jones' glittery top hat, turning her into a scary-bright human disco ball.
The songs themselves have only gained resonance – and although Jones has only released one album since 1989, that album, Hurricane, is one of her best. Though the title song and the taut, dramatic "Williams' Blood" were played back-to-back mid-set, they could have opened or closed the show.
It's simply amazing how much energy Jones still has at age 64. (Not to mention how well-toned her body is. "Is she doing Pilates or something?" wondered a female onlooker.) She was in great humor and unabashedly lewd, repeatedly accusing the lighting director of "getting his cock sucked up there" when he didn't cue a spotlight fast enough for her liking. During "Slave to the Rhythm," Jones crossed back and forth across the stage while keeping a neon hula-hoop aloft. (Not to mention rocking a giant starburst feather hat.)
"Slave to the Rhythm" was supposed to be the evening's finale, but the crowd wouldn't have it. Everyone in the room felt good – even the security and bar staff, who were visibly enjoying themselves. Earlier, Jones had lamented Hurricane Sandy: "I can't believe New York has a curfew. Is it true?" she asked, straddling a bass drum. With no encore prepared, Jones called for "Hurricane" again. "The hurricane is coming!" she shouted. Leave it to Grace Jones to turn the weather forecast into self-promotion.
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