Underneath the headdresses and oversized outfits, floating above rhythms from 30-year-old dance floors and Jamaican nightclubs, a commanding Grace Jones provided a finely tuned display of humanity in a 75-minute set Sunday, her first U.S. show as part of the tour in support of “Hurricane.”
Colorful, precise in the execution and entertaining, the return of Jones — it was her first L.A. appearance in more than 20 years, following the release last year of her first album in 19 — was warm and uplifting, a tribute to the substance within her overly stylized self.
New album “Hurricane” supplied the first two numbers: the autobiographical “This Is Life” and “Williams’ Blood.” She delivered both with a command and intensity not fully realized on the album. The former’s talk-sung lecture on taking control enhanced the resilience of the tune; the latter number provided a reminder that Jones was an innocent at one time.
By following the rookies with the classic “My Jamaican Guy,” Jones proffered the idea that the dance music filter she created 30 years ago remains operational and fulfilling — there is more to this artist than shock value and dance beats. Technology advances, social mores evolve, and an already sensual voice gets huskier, but the framework remains unchanged even as newer, non-Jamaican artists become her collaborators, among them Brian Eno and the team of Wendy and Lisa.
Eno and his old pal David Bowie cast a spell over the evening in which pop as performance art was a unifier for Jones, Of Montreal and Dengue Fever. In Jones’ case, it was rhythmic; for Of Montreal it was in the costumes and a cover — “Moonage Daydream” performed smartly with guest Janelle Monae — and with Dengue Fever, it was the possibilities of cultural cross-pollination. Power-pop and glam rock dominated the Athens, Ga., band Of Montreal’s hourlong set, about half of which was devoted to material from their two most recent albums, “Skeletal Lamping” and “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?”
A break in the set gave keyboardist Dottie Alexander a chance to accept a marriage proposal from her boyfriend Nick. Dengue Fever, an L.A. band that explores Cambodian pop with singer Chhom Nimol, was buoyant and cheerful.
Jones will perform at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York on Thursday.