Grace Jones was just a tiny spot on the stage last night, but she still managed to fill The Domain. She was, of course, the star attraction for the Sydney Festival First Night. And for me, the main attraction.
In common with a lot of similarly aged poofs, I’ve been a Grace Jones fan for a long, long, time. At about the age of eighteen I remember seeing, “Walking In The Rain” being played on Countdown, and being totally blown away. Along the way I’ve followed her musical career, though I’ve never been a fan of her acting. Unfortunately I never saw her the last time she played in Australia twenty years ago, as I was living in a different state. A different time and place. And so for me, getting to The Domain and finding a good spot was a high priority last night.
As Damo and I headed towards The Domain for the Sydney Festival First Night, we were blown away with how many people there were. We both quickly noticed, though, how seemingly few police and security guards there were. Somehow, the crowd managed to look after itself. A function, I guess, of being a drug and alcohol-free event. Well, for the public anyway. I’m not sure if I could say the same about Grace Jones!
I was blown away by the show. It’s as if her voice had never changed (and she was most definitely singing live). The most popular numbers were, not surprisingly, “Love Is The Drug”, “La vie en rose” and “Pull Up To The Bumper”. The audience was less-familiar with some of her other songs. I’d estimate only about a third of those attending The Domain would have known much about her musical career, as they were in the twenties and early thirties. But for me and a large number of similarly-aged people it was a great trip down memory lane, as we sang along, and danced with her like it was the mid 80s all over again.
Another great part of the show was her between-song-patter which was always very amusing. “You know I came to Australia twenty years ago and carved my initials in a tree. I’m still trying to find that tree. I must have been pretty fucked up at the time”, she said at one point to howls of laughter from the audience. Later at the after-show party at Hyde Park Barracks, a mate I work with quipped, “She’s looking in the wrong place. The tree’s ten feet taller now!”.
The other memorable “Grace Jones Moment” was when she suddenly invited people up on stage to “party”. It was pretty clear this was a spontaneous moment which the security guards had not been briefed on. While at first there was just two or three people dancing with her, by the end of the song there must have been fifty. Memorably, she told someone to “stop pushing, or I’ll get down there and PUSH YOU”. On another occasion, she noted a young bloke was having trouble climbing up on the stage, and observed, “He must have had too much to drink”. And then there was the moment where she bent and over and simulated sex with a young bloke she was dancing with, to howls of audience cheers. Oh, and the great moment where a bloke pulled out a camera seeking a photograph with her on stage, which she just dismissed with her hand. I could go on… All of these comments were delivered with the characteristic Grace Jones deadpan delivery.
In some ways, she was a slight parody of herself. But what a great parody! And, my how that small spot on the stage managed to command a lot of attention. Thank goodness for the big screens. Clearly the show was designed with them in mind. With each song there was a new costume or hat. Most memorable was the “disco bowler”, a bowler hat covered in sparklers, reflecting laser light. If there’s gonna be a DVD of the show, I’ll be lining up to buy it!