Aug. 28, 2016
James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem said it best: “If you missed Grace Jones, you fucked up. I don't care if you were somewhere else and finally connected with the love of your life; if you weren't at Grace Jones, you fucked up.”
Grace Jones' appearance on the FYF Fest lineup was unexpected, to say the least. Despite her status as an untouchable icon of music and fashion who invented her own brand of original, timeless cool, it was unclear whether or not the crowd, made up mostly of people who were not even born yet when Jones was transforming pop culture in the late 1970s and '80s, would “get it.” She's not Tame Impala or Kendrick Lamar, who were both shoo-ins to be fan favorites this year (and were, rightfully so) — but in the end, she proved to be something even better.
Opening with her cover of Iggy Pop and David Bowie's “Nightclubbing,” the queen gave her crowd a show that can only be described as monumental, the kind of set that those in the know watch with a satisfied grin as unsuspecting onlookers draw in closer and closer like moths to a flame, entrapped by Jones' hypnotic and commanding presence. From the dimly lit stage emerged her statuesque silhouette, seemingly glowing from the electric white paint that served as a full-body suit. Throughout her set, she flaunted the most fantastic headpieces that announced her theatricality and poise loud and clear.
Her backup dancer, Tarzan, donned full body paint, too, and was so powerful and elegant as he spun and flung himself around his pole that one couldn’t help but wonder why everyone didn’t have a body-painted pole dancer as a part of their performance. Oh, right: because they’re not Grace Jones.
Taking a momentary break from slaying “Pull Up to the Bumper,” Jones mounted an event staffer’s shoulders as he walked her into the crowd. And not just a wimpy five or 10 feet in, but smack dab in the middle, down the gangway that ran between the stage and the soundboard. There she was, larger than life, shimmering and twinkling above the crowd of fans — some old, many newly converted.
She saved her best for last. As the lights went down, Jones’ plucky drawl cut through the buzz of the crowd: “I’ve been rolling around in some red dirt,” she said, before letting us all know that she had a drink and a spliff waiting for her after the show. Then the lights flashed on and there was Jones, 68 years old, Hula Hooping and bare-chested, save for some red paint. And man, did she own it. She put even the most advanced of hula hoopers to shame, turning and turning without missing a beat throughout “Slave to the Rhythm,” while delivering a powerful vocal performance in skyrocket heels, nonetheless. It was so punk rock. As someone who can’t manage to walk through a door without crashing into the frame, I'd say this was about the most spectacular thing I’ve ever witnessed.
As she went around introducing her band (still Hula Hooping all the while), she called out her son Paulo on percussion. I tried to imagine what it would be like to play onstage with my mom, topless and Hula Hooping in body paint in front of thousands of people. I decided that if Grace Jones were my mom, then she could make basically anything work.
Grace Jones is a legend, one who will be embedded in music history forever, and she shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. She delivered class, attitude and unbreakable, irreplaceable talent (and also Tarzan).
As Jones exited the stage, I could feel a shift in myself and the crowd around me. A new, impossibly high bar had been set. Witnessing her has forever changed my perception of what makes a performer great.
Nightclubbing (Iggy Pop cover)
Private Life (Pretenders cover)
Walking in the Rain (Flash and the Pan cover)
My Jamaican Guy
I've Seen That Face Before
Warm Leatherette (The Normal cover)
Love Is The Drug (Roxy Music cover)
Pull Up to the Bumper
Slave to the Rhythm