Hurricane on Heels
Now this is one of my favorite stories. Where do I begin? Do you remember when you saw Grace Jones for the first time?
I saw Grace Jones when I saw Eddy Murphy’s Boomerang for the first time. I was watching Boomerang on tv while I was supposed to sleep. I was a bit too young to see the movie, but I loved every minute of it. Not only was I shocked that Eddy Murphy’s superficial character ‘Marcus’ rated women on their feet (!), the scenes with Grace Jones were engraved in my memory. There she was, this tall dominatrix, throwing her panties on the table, demanding that her new perfume should smell like her PUSSY, while she pushed Eddy Murphy’s nose in her knickers. I think I was 12 years old and I had never seen something like that before.
Do you remember when you heard Grace Jones for the first time?
I was working in Zsa Zsa bar where cocktails and adultery walked hand in hand. “Strange, I’ve seen that face before.” The little bar was packed and everybody started dancing in a trance. I was amazed. Grace Jones was coming to Belgium to my favorite venue, The Ancienne Belgique. She has a new album out, Hurricane, after a 19 year absence, and the album was getting great reviews. Critics were throwing superlatives on the woman. I, however, had absolutely no idea what to expect.
The concert was sold out after 2 days, 3 months before the actual gig. I managed to get 1 ticket. I was on my own for this one, so I knew it would be tricky. Also, she is the first woman I would like to capture on my Polaroid. You can’t use your charm on a woman. Yes, I snapped Marie Daulne from Zap Mama, but that was pure luck. I imagined Grace Jones would be very protective about her visual image so I was guessing that she would say no. But, you never know right….?
I arrived nicely on time. There were approximately 20 people waiting in front of the door. I squeezed myself behind the first 10 and laid low. When the doors opened I couldn’t find the entrance for guests. I was on a guestlist and normally the check-in for guests was on the left side of the entrance. Now, however, it was on the right side. It took 2 minutes to find my name on the list and that were 2 minutes too many. I saw people running to the venue and I was still standing at the check-in. I knew I was fucked. When I entered the concert venue there were already two lines front row. The thing is, if I am by myself, this means I have to choose a side very quickly. I can’t leave my spot, to check out other and better spots. Since my P.I.C. Jules wasn’t with me to check out which side would be best, I decided to choose the left side. I quickly noticed that was not the right choice. On the right side of the stage, I noticed a big pole. Like in; stripper-pole. Now I was sure I was fucked.
I imagined she would use the thing while performing. I decided to make the best out of it and waited it out. I looked at the public. It mainly consisted of 30+ poeple and the gay and lesbian community were representied big time. Trybez opened the show. Trybez is a young band combining, rap and world music into their music. They rhyme and sing in English, French and Spanish. Rhythmic with a tribal and earthy feel to it. Sometimes it has oriental influences as well. It is eclectic to say the least. They had some technical problems and the performance was not fluent but there was something about them. You saw that they were still searching a little bit and I noticed, not much, but once in a while, signs of shyness. I thougt it was cute.
Now, there was one member bythe band that stood out a bit. The singer had a low voice, beatboxed from time to time – a good singer – and played different instruments. He was tall with short dreadlocks and a nice smile. His name is Paulo Goude. He thanked the audience and finished asking the public if they were ready for his mother. Yes, he was Grace Jones’ son. How would it be like, being the son of Grace Jones? I wonder.
Anyhow. It took a while for Grace to start the concert. I was there since 19h00 and since I couldn’t leave my spot I was thursty and hungry. Sometimes I ask myself what the hell I put myself into starting this blog. I was tired from my day job and my legs were hurting from standing so long. The Ouni before the blog would go to a concert grab a beer, talk a bit, chilled and relaxed. The Ouni since the blog is obliged to act like a true fan and man I’m telling you, it’s wearing me out. Respect for all the fans who follow their favorite artist around. It’s Top Sport. Finally, the lights went out. Darkness. And a low dark voice asking us: “Brussels, are you ready?”
The large curtain went down and there she was. I swear my jar dropped way down. She was standing on a high elevator. You know, the ones you use for cleaning windows. The beat of the music was pounding and she was standing there, posing with her mic singing “Nightclubbin”. It was amazing. The intro, the attitude. The backing vocals were dressed all black with little square hats. Moving in a hypnotizing, very subtle way. They barely moved at all while singing but it was in sync and almost graphical. I loved it. The elevator descended and she came down. Her head accessory (made by Philipe Treacy) was a little hat with lights. Medusa inspired in a way. She was wearing fish leggings, a corset, a thong and Louboutin heels. Minimalistic with full impact.
Ok, some might find this offensive or sad for a woman that age walking around in a thong, but honestly, it didn’t disturb me at all. It was almost normal in a way. Also, with that body, plastic surgery or not, I would do the same. Or maybe not. I was totally overwhelmed by her presence, attitude ànd her voice. For some strange and very wrong reason, I had the impression that Grace Jones was more image than voice. Like Madonna in a certain way (not dissing Madonna btw!). I have no idea where on earth I got that idea, man the woman can sing! What a voice! The coolness and the ease that she produces, the sound that leaves her mouth, is just incredible. Needless to say the public went nuts right?
With each song, she changed outfits in a little black dressroom while she kept talking with the audience. I have never seen so many accessories in one show. Hats, masks, glitter blazers, a parachute dress for Christ sake, cymbals. Man, I saw it all.
Grace Jones is not too keen on talking about her age, word is that she is in her 60’s but I tell you, she rocked the house. The props on stage also drew my attention. They were very basic. No fancy video displays. A pole. One big wind blower on the side. Some fluo pink details.Very oldskool and they fitted perfectly in the venue like AB. The intro of ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’ started, she walked to the pole jumped on a little platform that started spinning around. A man points out the wind blower in her direction, and lights the spotlight in his other hand straight into her face. The wind started blowing, and while spinning around the pole, with the killer heels, she sang the song.
While singing ‘La Vie en Rose’ in a silver ‘paillette’ blazer she drank some red wine. (Read: she swallowed the whole glass in one time). It was so surreal and beautiful, I almost got tears in my eyes. Now, I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t expect to turn into a Grace Jones fan over a night. One of my favorite songs from Grace Jones is ‘Pull Up To My Bumber’. While She was singing the song she worked the pole like a professional. (Read: she almost screwed the damn thing) I caught myself numerous times with my jaw hanging on the floor. I just never saw a performance like it. It wasn’t fancy or with the newest technology stuff but the live-band was perfection and Grace Jones is a true performer, entertainer and singer. For me, one of the visual highlights of the concert was‘Hurricane’ where she was wearing a gigantic black parachute cape. While she was singing, a roadie pointed the wind blower and spotlight on her, set the blower on full force. She was liturally fighting a hurricane. The thing was blowing so hard, props on stage were blown away and she had trouble standing since she was wearing the Louboutins. She actually let the blower blow her away and fell on the floor. Still with the heels.
It was almost theater. Or did I mention the laser? Well, after another head accessory change, she came on stage with a ‘disco ball studded bowl-hat.’ They beemed a green lazer ON the hat, and because of the reflection, the laser split out in a 1000 light elements that spread all over the venue. Like fireflies in a way. I hope my description makes àny sense, but it’s the best I can do.
Sometimes you start to think that she really ìs a creature from another planet. The coolest creature I have ever seen, that’s for sure. Can you imagine your grandmother in Louboutin heels with a freaking laser on her head? My point exactly. Last but not least, there was the Banksy video installation. Suddenly I noticed a roadie with a little camera following Grace Jones. His only task was – mark my words – filming Grace Jones buttocks from beneath up while she was shaking her booty. The public had an exclusive, up close and personal view of Grace Jones ass, shaking it like a ‘Slave to the Rhythm’. Yes, Yes.
Finally, the show ended with big colourful balloons. No cute little balloons. Big balloons, that hurt a little when they bump on your head.
See exhibit I:
Suddenly she invited people on stage. I did not hesitate, jumped over the fence and crawled on stage. (I know, this sounds totally psycho) The stage was quickly filled and a lot of (gay) men were kissing and hugging her. It was very hard to get close to her and since I did not want to bump into her with my giant camera and scare the living shit out of her I took some distance. There I was standing on a stage again with no idea how to react to all the frenzy. I got off stage after the song was gone with no Polaroid. I felt kind off stupid. And then she was gone. I was standing there, completely in shock of the experience. Amazing Grace.
Now, all good and well. But what about the Polaroid I hear you ask? Eye contact was impossible. Not with Grace or the band. I was too far away and on the wrong side. I could not believe I didn’t take the right side of the stage, the pictures I took were too dark, since there was almost no light and I was standing too far away for any descent result. But there was so much to see and it was visually almost like an orgasm so I was seduced to take pictures anyway. The audience left the venue and I started to focus on my other options. I noticed that the members of Trybez were selling their album and signing autographs and I took all my courage and walked straight to Paulo and asked him if he could help me with a Polaroid of his mother. He told me it was already packed backstage. (With whom (?) I always wonder, and hòw on earth do these people get in!) and that he would try and ask her, but he said to me that he couldn’t make any promises. I thanked him and asked him if he would like to pose for me. He agreed, posed, and told me to wait until he came back.
Now, that’s always a tricky one, when they ask you to wait. Most of them don’t come back. Not necessarily because they don’t want to, but, maybe they forget while meeting other people that also want to get in backstage, or they simple forget while hanging backstage. Now, I was alone and I had to get back from Brussels to Ostend. I was obliged to take the last train and time was running out. I decided last minute to take my chance, although I had a busy day at work the next day, and called a friend of mine that lived in Brussels, asking him if I could stay for the night. He agreed so I had a roof over my head. So there I was, waiting. The bar was already empty and I told the chick behind the bar that I was ready to call it a night and give up. I gave myself 5 last minutes.
All of a sudden, the door behind the bar opens. A blond guy walks out with his travel bag. I looked up, we noticed each other and I knew this was my last chance. The girl behind the bar must have thought I was a complete lunatic stopping our conversation so abruptly and walking up to the guy like a predator. I walked up to him and introduced myself. He introduced himself as ‘Adam’. He was the guitar player and apparently was working with Grace for a long time. I told him about the project and while I did that I felt his eyes going from top to bottom. I think he liked me. He immediately told me that Paulo told something about me. So he really did an effort to ask around what the possibilities were for me. Or Paulo thought I was a total freak and warned his fellow band members. That is also a possibility of course. Adam asked me if I wanted to come with him in the tour bus and chat a little bit. Now, The Ouni before the blog does not go into any car with a stranger. But this was Ouni on duty and I had to put my reservations on the side. So, I experienced my first tour bus.
We talked a little bit and he gave me a Stella. All of sudden he looks at me and asks: “Do you smoke weed?” Hahaha. I smiled and we went upstairs. I could see the little beds and I entered a small living room. The sound engineer, the bass player and the two lovely backing vocals were hanging out together. Adam introduced me and we hung out for a while. (Read: me being extremely shy, barely speaking, answering their questions and smiling a lot, very smooth I must say.) The backing vocals were singing to house music, I saw visuals of Afro Samurai on the TV and everything was really chill. I was talking with Adam and asked him what my chances were. He told me, they were very small, since apparently Grace already ‘left the building’ and she is likely to say no to these sort of demands. He told me he was going to look for her and left the bus. When he came back he said that he was very sorry but that it was not the right time for a picture. Damn. I tried hiding my disappointment and asked them if I could take a picture of them instead. Grace Jones’ brother bumped into the little room and was very eager to pose as well. I took two pictures and gave one in return for their warm welcome.
Adam noticed that I was a bit sad since he caught me pounding my lips while thinking about my failure. Haha. Although I did not manage to get a picture, I was very proud of myself. I actually stepped into a tour bus. Hang out with Grace Jones’ band. Strange how things can turn out, if only you set your mind to it… I gave Adam a paper with my website and he promised he would leave a message. He escorted me out of the bus like a true gentleman. We kissed goodbye and inside I was hoping to maybe one day have another chance to snap Grace Jones on Polaroid. I fell asleep, a bit disappointed but very satisfied. I was a bit worried though. I got carried away by all the visual impulses and took a little to many Polaroids than I should`ve considering the fact that they did not lead me to the final goal. I knew that the following concerts I had to be more careful. But hey… I saw a Hurricane on Heels surrounded by laser beams and giant colourful balloons. If you ever have the chance to see Grace Jones, BUY THE DAMN TICKET!
PS: Adam, if you ever read this, I am still waiting for my comment!