It’s a fucked up planet Janet.
Everybody says so & I usually agree but can I just say that purely by existing in the same space/ time continuum as Grace Jones I feel as close to paradise as anyone could realistically hope for whilst traveling a mere 3 miles to go & see her perform with her incredibly sexy band is just ridiculous.
Maybe there is a God after all & a badass one at that.
To be honest, there’s usually a powerful warning running through my head when I go to experience a show by a ‘living legend’ that says ‘don’t be a mug & expect too much’ & ‘everything is hollowed out & corporate these days - stay home and listen to the greatest hits album & don’t try & tempt the fates’.
I privately refer to this as the ‘One too many tedious nights wasted at Bob Dylan gigs rule’.
Perhaps I’d seen Bob & the other mount Rushmore giants of pop music one too many times & come away with fingers burnt, a gassy beer hangover & an empty wallet.
After a while I must have gained some perspective on visiting at the shrine of heroes & these days have no shame in admitting that over the last few years I’ve happily walked out of big London shows by Neil Young, (Hammersmith) Leonard Cohen (Greenwich) Jesus & Mary Chain (Shepherds Bush) Patti Smith (Roundhouse) just because I wasn’t feeling it.
Hell, I even walked away from Bowie at Glastonbury in 2000 but, on reflection, that was just a bit stupid...
I guess there was always something simply nagging away at the back of my mind during those ‘legendary ‘shows like ‘ Who’s brilliant idea was it to sell Tuborg lager at this show when there are only a few toilets in the whole building?’ or something entirely fundamental such as ‘I wonder if I’m missing a repeat of a really good episode of Frasier tonight’?.
The loss of value for money by leaving halfway through a show was always assuaged by the knowledge that I wouldn’t have to sell my fond memories of a favourite artist down the river once & for all due to a lacklustre performance & a brain-dead sound engineer.
That curious little man-child Beck Hansen once sang “Give your finger to the rock n´ roll singer as he’s dancing upon your paycheque..’” & that’s what I believed I was doing: Standing up for pure rock n´ roll values by walking out on mediocrity.
With Grace Jones, well, I’m embarrassed to admit it now but the knowledge that I could be safely tucked up in bed merely 25 minutes into the event should I need to walk out was actually a big incentive in buying the ticket in the first place.
The Urban Dictionary even gives this ‘pre event bummer’ feeling it’s own name: Anticipointment.
Come the day of the concert there was a World Cup cricket match on TV &, unusually, the English national team were in the final. This could have partly explained the relatively small crowd that gathered up on the windy Heath to see Grace Jones. As another weird part of my personality likes to champion an underdog & a large part of the crowd seemed to have left the instant ‘Rag n bone man’ had departed the stage, I started to get the feeling that the forthcoming show might even be deliciously intimate,like Screaming Jay Hawkins at a church fete or something
Talking to the bar staff I learned that Jamiroquai had played the same festival on the previous night & had pulled a huge crowd.
I guess if you liked live festival dance music then Jamiroquai was probably a safer bet.
Maybe it’s just a question of being ‘Relatable ‘ to your audience:
JK has songs that deal with concepts such as how to ‘ Stop modernisation going on ‘& feature fascinating characters such the ‘Space Cowboy’ or the ‘Cosmic girl’ whilst GJs family friendly festival song choice includes openly joyous references to car parking as a metaphor for sexual intercourse in ‘Pull up to the bumper’ & Auto- Erotic asphyxiation in the unforgettable & brutal ‘Warm Leatherette’: (All together now: Warm Leatherette melts, On your burning flesh, You can see your reflection, On the luminescent dash”)
Like every truly great icon knows, the opening of the show is all important. In this case, Awesome in it’s rawest sense, was the word.
After a monstrous apocalyptic rumble boomed out through the PA, sufficient to blast birds out of trees & wake the very dead, a giant black sheet that entirely covered the stage dropped to the ground revealing the band in all their warrior face painted glory slamming into a heavy disorientating ‘Nightclubbing’
Standing aloft on a raised platform was an Amazonian Wonder Woman wearing a terrifying black feathered gold face mask that grinned like a cross between Gieger’s ‘Alien’ skull & a pharaonic deaths head.
Her voice was imperious & menacing as she growled out her command (make that demand ) to be ‘Like an ice machine’ and ‘Dance like a nuclear bomb’. Her black chiffon dress was blown every which way by electric fans making her stupendously long legs look like she was stalking through a wasteland of every lesser artist who ever dared to tread the boards for public entertainment.
After the song shuddered to a halt, the mask was removed & a devilishly grinning Grace faced the audience to laugh about how she had come to ‘Give the children nightmares’.
The assembled mothers in the audience nervously gathered their kids together under their skirts & made plans to leave before the next song started.
Then the songs come like body blows of power & style under heavy manners:
“Private life” (written by that other genius of the ‘get back’ stare & tough -girl attitude, Chrissie Hynde) sounding super- pissed off & dripping with sarcasm:
‘You asked my advice I say:
‘use the door’
but you’re still clinging
to somebody you deplore,
and now you want to use me
for emotional blackmail,
I just feel pity when you lie,
contempt when you cry...”
Roxy’s ‘Love is the drug’ was given a full on hi- energy punk makeover with Miss Jones resplendent in glitter ball bowler hat like a mash up of ‘Cabaret ‘ & Studio 54’, the dangerous, still mind- boggling groove of ‘Pull up the bumper ‘threatened to outshine the immaculate Compass Point recording from all those years ago & a then a long, long valedictory ‘Slave to the rhythm’ during which she gyrates a plastic hula hoop around her waist whilst simultaneously delivering every last line perfectly & still finding strength & energy to introduce the entire band, management, sound guy, crew, friends & neighbours in a 10 minute finale that would make show business troopers 20 years younger such as Kylie Minogue or the Spice Girls go weak at the knees.
At some point in the evening she had mentioned in passing that she was jet lagged & had a broken toe & then went right ahead & sung a pretty, heartfelt version of, what else? ‘Amazing Grace’. Perhaps that’s the mark of greatness..
You get to define the boundaries of the event - even writing your own headline captions while you’re doing it, giving the people what they want then giving them something they didn’t even know they needed.
You’re a wonder, Wonder Woman.