Sydney Festival burst into life on Saturday 10 January 2009 with a mass celebration all over the city, including Cat Empire and Grace Jones centre stage.
You know how it is – so much gloss can only cover so much lack of substance. After all that hype, Grace Jones seemed to be just that – an empty pop-culture bubble of sparkle, shine and hype, nothing more. Dropping old favourites that hardcore fans were eager to see earlier on in her set didn’t go anywhere towards reviving a lethargic crowd bored of the Kylie-esque wow-factor of “let’s change costume for every song.”
Gimmicks aside – and the costumery was fine and dandy, indeed! – punters waited eagerly for an undelivered rompa-stomp of a performance, following on from the groovaliciousness of Cat Empire, that has seen them bumping, jumping and positively pumping in their seats. Cat Empire has indeed proved themselves as an enduring musical legacy past their orinigal hit, failingto attract the “one hit wonder” tag that so many musicians fall prey to. Fun, fresh, funky, and just freakin’ awesome to dance to, the slow, stifled beats of Grace Jones post-partytimes dragged energy down and frustrated a crowd that completely packed out the domain. We were waiting and ready to go Grace – where was the intensity, the ferocity?
Admittedly, Grace Jones is known as a figure of pop, and she did go to all the stops to pull a punch – the aforementioned costumery being a strong selling suit – or should that be skirt?! Somewhere between something out of The Duchess and what a futuristic spaceman would wear to a concert of Chromeo’s - one of last year’s festival most popular acts – her costume designer had every reason to claim the night. Aside from this, the smooth stylings of Grace Jones’ drummer should be noted as he kept it slick and silky for the raw depth of Jones’ voice. And my god, what a voice, what a body – to look and sound like such a sex-sinning-diva-lady at any time in one’s life, let alone sixty-five!
Down at the pub after the event an old regular let it slip that is young’uns in our twenties should be ashamed of not knowing, and respecting, who we were watching. Well, honey, you’ve got it all – mind, body, spirit, attitude – but it just seemed a little too, well, packaged to be easily swallowed by such a cynical generation. It’s such a shame, because so many of us were so ready to be blown away, not bored to tears. Respect your elders and all that… but next time, a live band, or even a bit more of a beat, behind you wouldn’t go astray.
Grace Jones is also performing for Sydney Festival at the Enmore Theatre, 13-14 January 2009.