The return of Grace Jones to LA was more than just a performance, it was an event. The Jamaican songstress’ first major gig this side of the US in 20 years, she packed in the crowds at the Hollywood Bowl and put on a show
that was as complex as it was stunning. Local Cambodian-funk collective Dengue Fever kicked off the night on a
strong note, playing a relatively short set, but doing enough to get the still-building crowd going. Their latest release, a collaboration/cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” with fellow local-darling Inara George has received a great deal of attention, and was respectively well-received at the bowl. Of Montreal followed, playing a set that was fun, lighthearted, and full of surprises. Janelle Monae (right? I was just as surprised as everyone else) joined Kevin Barnes and his group for a handful of songs, including a duet/cover of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” to which the glam-friendly crowd roared with approval.
In the middle of the set, band member Dottie Alexander was proposed to by her boyfriend onstage, and, no worries there, she said yes. The rest of Of Montreal’s set was strong running through material mostly from their latest, Skeletal Lamping, as well as a scattering of their earlier work, which got everyone moving. The visual aspect was a hit as well; Kevin and the band were accompanied by rainbow spotlights, golden buddhas, and zombies combatting Catholic priests.
Grace Jones, of course, was the true star of the night, coming on shortly after Of Montreal. Descending upon the stage draped in a silver lamé blanket, the crowd went ape-shit, removing it shortly thereafter to reveal a body-suit inspired by her infamous Keith Haring body paint. Needless to say there was a costume for each track she played. From a simple rasta-colored skirt and vinyl tube-top for “My Jamaican Man,” to a wide-waisted, reflective sequin ensemble for “Demolition Man,” Grace was as impressive visually as she was audibly. What sets Jones apart from other heavyweights is that she truly knows how to command a crowd, but as a superhuman. In between tracks she would discuss her life in Europe, how much she loves to perform, and her thoughts on family and age – rare displays of vulnerability from a woman who comes off as rather…intimidating.
Simply put, the show was amazing, the kind of show you had to see personally to fully appreciate. Though her whole set was compressed because of the strict Bowl time slots, she didn’t disappoint, making time for an encore of “Pull Up The Bumper.” Her new album, Hurricane, and the performance accompanying it only prove that Grace Jones is still the “Queen Mother Jungle Bitch of New York,” and if she’s able to flaunt the same swagger and attitude as she did decades ago, then her run as an icon and musical shape-shifter isn’t over quite yet.