Grace Jones delivers an awesome, transcendental performance in Dublin’s Olympia
This was not so much a concert, but an experience, akin to a truly great exhibition at MoMA or a life-changing meal at Noma
Grace Jones: ”One of the greatest gigs a decent proportion of the audience had ever seen? Probably.” Photograph: Paul R. Giunta/FilmMagic
Grace Jones ★★★★★
The Olympia Theatre
Wednesday, Sept 22nd
Darkness. A silhouette on stage. Fans turning to each other, lungs expanding in anticipation. A glint of sequins. BOOM. Lights, camera, Grace. This brace of shows in Dublin was always going to be special.
Up until now, Jones’ main link with Ireland has been in her headgear, as a fan of Philip Treacy. But now, with Irish producer Katie Holly of Blinder Films producing a documentary on Jones directed by Sophie Fiennes, there’s a whole new relationship with Irish audiences.
Because the concerts are being shot for that documentary, it added an extra frisson of excitement, and as a result, the floor of the Olympia was pleasantly uncrowded, allowing space for cameras to shoot on 16mm film.
DJs from the club night Mother warmed up the crowd, and then she arrived in a metal skull mask blasting out Slave To The Rhythm, which was performed twice. From the first moment, jaws dropped. What followed was something truly awesome, transcendental even. A icon sang, danced, and performed her heart and soul out.
The crowd was occasionally stunned into silence between songs, as if we were all trying to digest what we had just seen, how good this was, how special this was, and what a privilege it was to be there to see it unfold.
This was not so much a concert, but an experience, akin to a truly great exhibition at MoMA or a life-changing meal at Noma. Each track became its own individual art piece. The production was bolstered by the fact that it was being filmed, and so the sound was ear-ringingly brilliant, Jones’ band was excellent, and the lighting was fantastic.
Even for those who have seen Jones perform multiple times, her familiar live moves took on new intensity in such an intimate space; the hula hooping for the extent of the second instalment of Slave To The Rhythm, or the lasers crashing off her Treacy disco ball-esque hat and shining out towards the crowd for the Roxy Music cover Love Is The Drug. She announced the geographical context to some songs, Jamaica for My Jamaican Guy, New York for Pull Up To The Bumper, and Paris for La Vie En Rose, during which audience members in the pit showered her with roses as she lay outstretched on the stage.
Everything was a highlight, but Williams Blood, which she reminded the crowd she wrote with Wendy & Lisa of The Revolution was especially emphatic.
With each transition between songs, Jones continued to speak from backstage, narrating her own performance, which included her affection for the Olympia Theatre, and heaping praise on the documentary on Panti, The Queen of Ireland.
An encore of sorts was in fact an opportunity to reshoot This Is, a track performed both second and as a finale, after Hurricane saw a billowing cape unfurl with help from a wind machine, as if Christo and Jeanne-Claude were in town to swaddle the Olympia.
Jones’ DNA twists like a helix through so many contemporary performers – Roisin Murphy, Lady Gaga, FKA twigs – but at 68, her essence is all her own. Her power, her prowess, her presence was and is astonishing. She sang Amazing Grace, but “amazing” undersells this performance. One of the greatest gigs a decent proportion of the audience had ever seen? Probably. It was, at times, overwhelming.