It's 20 minutes past the scheduled start-time for the main arena headliner, and our Saturday night diva has yet to emerge from behind the black curtain covering the front of the stage. Grace Jones, a woman whose concept of punctuality has traditionally been a little on the abstract side, may not yet have reached the level of fashionably late, but she's certainly crossed a line towards trendily tardy.

It’s 20 minutes past the scheduled start-time for the main arena headliner, and our Saturday night diva has yet to emerge from behind the black curtain covering the front of the stage. Grace Jones, a woman whose concept of punctuality has traditionally been a little on the abstract side, may not yet have reached the level of fashionably late, but she’s certainly crossed a line towards trendily tardy.



But here she is now, majestically eyeing rain-soaked festival-goers from her vantage point of a raised platform that may well have been borrowed from the chaps who wash the outside windows of tall buildings, her deep drawl wrapping itself around the words of “Nightclubbing”.

It’s pretty much a greatest hits set, with “My Jamaican Guy”, “Demolition Man” and “Slave To The Rhythm” despatched with clinical efficiency, hardly veering (if at all) from their familiar recorded versions. Her recent Hurricane album features, but not excessively, and arguably the most entertaining aspects of the evening come when Grace decides to communicate directly with her fans between songs:

“Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wooooowwwww!!!! Am I on the moon?” (Quite possibly, love)

“Give me something to suck on, please. I’m a little thirsty.”

“Oh, darling, a good conscience will kiss you as it bites you, you Portaloo sunset.”

“I don’t know if you know this about me, but I like to dress up a bit.”

That last remark may well turn out to be the most phenomenal understatement in Latitude history. Never has a 61-year-old donned a pair of hot pants with such style and confidence, but it’s the increasingly bizarre headgear that takes the breath away. Imagine Salvador Dali decreeing that everyone attending Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot has to buy their bonnets from the “especially bonkers” shelf of his haberdashers’ store.

Jones clearly isn’t to everyone’s taste musically, so it may not have been just the rain that had some of the crowd heading for the exits long before the end of her set. Those who stayed, though, witnessed a true one-off of a performer having a blast under a deep purple sky, pulling up to the bumper with outlandish glee.

TERRY STAUNTON

Pic credit: Richard Johnson