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As the Tri-State area braced for the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Grace made landfall Saturday night at the historic Roseland Ballroom in New York City. The 64 year-old singer stormed the stage in wrap-up stilettos and dazzled the sold-out crowd for two solid hours with a hits-heavy set that featured a different costume for every song.
Her only U.S. appearance this year, the show was a one-of-a-kind event conceived by U.K. milliner Philip Treacy to feature the singer (and former model) in outfits by designers Issey Miyake, Jean Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen. Jones stayed in a black corset with thong, fishnets and heels the entire evening and spent the night accenting this with her various changes offstage, though she never made clear which designer she was wearing (most of the hats probably were Treacy, and one or two of the more unusual pieces probably Gaultier). Her fans dressed up, too: Holding the concert on the Saturday before Halloween only sealed the deal as the room looked like it was packed with extras from Party Monster and Paris Is Burning.
Fronting a six-piece band and two backup singers, Jones took the stage in near darkness and opened with “Nightclubbing.” The woman is in phenomenal shape and appears downright ageless. As she stood on a riser above the stage in an outfit that lit up, her sultry take on the David Bowie/Iggy Pop song set the mood for the evening as she sang, “Oh, isn’t it wild?”
Jones returned to sing “This Is Life” from her most recent album, 2009’s Hurricane, and followed it with “My Jamaican Guy” and her cover of Pretenders’ “Private Life.” Whether she’s singing or talk-singing, Jones was in excellent voice all night. One of the many highlights of her set was the costume she wore for her take on The Police’s “Demolition Man,” which featured the singer with a shining metal hat and carrying two cymbals, which she crashed to great effect. “I keep it tight,” she said with a laugh.
Jones’ music ranges from avant-garde disco and new wave to reggae, funk and pop. Emerging from the darkness in gold sequined top hat and tails, she asked for a glass of wine; when she began speaking in French it became obvious what song was up next: her lilting light-jazz rendition of “La Vie en Rose,” one of her biggest hits. However, when the song began playing, she stepped on a revolving turntable, started joking with the crowd and missed her cue. She continued, though she admitted her mistake, which only served to unravel her and leave her and the crowd laughing.
Jones featured two more tracks from Hurricane (“Well Well Well,” “Williams’ Blood”) before returning to classics like “Warm Leatherette” and her cover of Roxy Music’s “Love Is the Drug.” Her costume for “Pull Up to the Bumper” was a riding crop and a horse tail, fixed at her lower back. She pulled a young man out of the audience and danced with him onstage; after the song, she made him take off his shirt and flirted with him mercilessly.
Jones seemed to be having as much fun as the crowd, drinking wine, making lewd comments and at times even yelling at the spotlight operators: “I’m over here; no one’s over there!” When she sang, her voice was powerful, and when she wasn’t singing, she was dancing. And, as she famously did at Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee concert in June, the singer emerged from the shadows at the end of her set carrying a Hula Hoop. Jones then called in “Slave to the Rhythm” and proceeded to hula for the entire song, while singing in a thong and heels.
Jones returned for an encore of the aptly chosen “Hurricane.” She appeared in an Issey Miyake parachute wrap and stood in front of a fan that blew the fabric well behind her as she clutched a pole. The song finished, Jones left without saying a word. She is a tremendous performer, and at an age when many people are thinking about retirement, she looks and sounds far from it. Like a hurricane, Grace Jones packs a wallop.
This Is Life
My Jamaican Guy
I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango)
La Vie en Rose
Well Well Well
Love Is the Drug
Pull Up to the Bumper
Slave to the Rhythm
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