Live Review: Grace Jones + DJ Alex Taylor - Enmore Theatre (19.04.11)

The iconic Grace Jones is a name that may be lost on younger generations. In the midst of the ‘artsy but not really’ pop that seems to dominate teenage minds, the actual trendsetter and the archetype for all this ‘fashion pop’ has been criminally overlooked. Grace Jones, the original avant-garde diva, is here to either remind you, or introduce you to, her unique brand of alternative pop-soul. This was achieved with a stunning performance at the Enmore Theatre that lasted for more than two hours, as a sideshow to her appearance at this year’s exciting Blues & Roots festival.

On sole support duty, veteran Australian DJ Alex Taylor entertained the growing crowd with funky house remixes of hits like Sade’s "Smooth Operator" and Dinah Washington’s "Is You or Is You Ain’t My Baby.’ Taylor’s track selection seemed to go down well with the generally older crowd as hits from the early 90’s and late 80’s were given a bass-heavy makeover to get everybody in the dancing mood for Grace Jones.

As pitch black overwhelmed the theatre Grace’s backing band took to the stage while Jones was heard singing "This Is" off the latest album Hurricane. Immediately taken by her strong vocals the audience could not stop cheering as everyone knew that beneath the large, shiny, moving material in the centre of the stage was the woman herself. At the conclusion of the song Grace pulled off the material to reveal her first quirky costume of the day, all of which were designed by the enigmatic fashion goddess Eiko Ishioka.

Dressed like a zebra hybrid of some sort, Grace Jones hit us with "William’s Blood", another track off Hurricane which translated amazingly live. As she strutted around stage, performing in every sense of the word, Grace showed off her commanding voice which made sure all eyes were focused on the stage.

Giving us a comedic rant about the internet, "Private Life" was belted out which was followed by the classic "Warm Leatherette".

As the stage went pitch black again, giving Jones an opportunity to change costumes, roars from the crowd were deafening. This was met with a great performance of "Love You To Life" in a very shiny reptile-medusa-esque costume.

One of the stand-out moments of the set was next – "Demolition Man", as the aggressive pop tune was given to us over heavy guitar riffs and resounding drums. Jones’s reputation for blending music, fashion and performance art was realised along with her rare talent to seamlessly switch between contralto and soprano constantly.

With humorous anecdotes in-between, Grace Jones continued her set with the gorgeous "La Vie en Rose" while dressed as a giant rose. The much-sampled "My Jamaican Guy" was a treat but was overshadowed by the truly awesome performance of "Corporate Cannibal".

Jones then took it up a notch with her costumes as she came out in shiny balloon-looking pants and was engulfed in a revolving, circular, set of lasers as "Well Well Well" was sung brilliantly. Miss Jones then used her hat/helmet to deflect a laser and convey it across the whole theatre while singing "Love Is The Drug" – another stand-out of the evening.

The classic "I’ve Seen That Face Before" saw Grace waltzing around with a mannequin and the windy performance of "Hurricane" had her black cape blowing across the stage – making Jones seem almost like an actual hurricane.
It was the final two songs of the night which received the biggest crowd reaction as "Pull Up To The Bumper" and the funky "Slave to the Rhythm" were both given extended performances while Grace danced around in a burlesque outfit.

With that Grace Jones let the fantastic band play her out, while the fans gave a standing ovation and the Enmore seemed a lot larger than it actually is. I consider myself extremely lucky to have witnessed such a one-of-a-kind performance from a true music legend and it did not at all disappoint. In fact, I wish she were on for another two hours! A living, breathing artwork, Grace Jones gave us more than we could possibly ask for.

Set List:

This Is
William’s Blood
Private Life
Warm Leatherette
Love You to Life
Demolition Man
Sunset Sunrise
La Vie en Rose
My Jamaican Guy
Corporate Cannibal
Well Well Well
Love is the Drug
I’ve Seen That Face Before
Pull Up to the Bumper
Slave to the Rhythm