Music legend, fashion icon and film star Grace Jones delivered a stunning performance to close her curated edition of the Southbank Centre’s Meltdown festival. Held over nine incredible days of live shows and free activities with over 20,000 tickets sold across the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Rooms, this year’s line-up featured nearly 70% global majority artists with over half of performers either women or non-binary artists.
Wrapping the 27th iteration of her Meltdown festival, Grace Jones was full of fire and force giving yet another high energy and visually arresting performance. As the curtain dropped, Grace Jones was seen towering way above the Royal Festival Hall stage, donning a 30-foot black and white dress in a nod to her 1987 collaboration with artist Keith Haring. Not to be outdone, even by her own opening night, Grace Jones swapped through an eclectic array of outfits, from a scarlet red cape to an ornately embroidered corset, as she sauntered through her hits including ‘My Jamaican Guy’, ‘Williams Blood’, ‘Pull Up To the Bumper’ and ‘Slave To The Rhythm’.
Elsewhere during the festival, the Southbank Centre buzzed with music from South London to Senegal, Mali to Michigan. Sold out shows from Peaches, Dry Cleaning, Two Another, Oumou Sangaré, Big Joanie, Meshell Ndegeocello, John Grant and cktrl with the London Contemporary Orchestra evidenced the exciting, eclectic mix and considered curation of this year’s festival by Grace Jones and the plethora of talent that continues to be influenced by her. This year’s Meltdown also ranked as the second highest grossing edition of the festival after Robert Smith’s festival in 2018.
In the Royal Festival Hall, captivated crowds danced throughout performances by Hot Chip and Kasai Allstars for a one-off special, the Love Unlimited Synth Orchestra’s tribute to Barry White featuring Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke and Rachel Chinouriri, as well as the sensational Senegalise artist Babaa Maal. Skunk Anansie, supported by rising stars Nova Twins, brought the roof down with a thunderous wall of sound while Greentea Peng opted for a laid back night of dub-heavy jams, including her new single ‘Stuck In The Middle’, with support from the animated Lord Apex. Meanwhile, crowds in the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room were privy to some incredible moments during the festival including Sky Ferreira’s long-awaited return to London, ‘Little JB’ Lee Fields celebrating 50 years of experience as a soul stalwart and Shingai’s infectious, uninhibited energy.
For the final weekend of the festival, the Southbank Centre’s Riverside Terrace was a hub of bustling activity. On Friday 17 June, ShezAr and The Soul Sirens led crowds in an uplifting chorus of gospel covers of Grace Jones’ hits while, on Saturday 18 June, the public, alongside professional models, donned their very best to walk the catwalk in a collaboration with Africa Fashion Week London and Creative Resilience. Finally, on Sunday 19 June, the Riverside Terrace was packed with enthusiastic hula-hoopers in a spinning, spectacular homage to Grace Jones.
The Southbank Centre’s Meltdown festival will return in summer 2023 with details of the next curator to be announced later this year. Previous curators have included Nile Rodgers, Robert Smith, M.I.A., David Byrne, Yoko Ono, Massive Attack, Jarvis Cocker, David Bowie and Patti Smith.
Commenting on the success of Grace Jones’ Meltdown, Southbank Centre Artistic Director Mark Ball said, ‘Grace Jones’ unique cultural influence truly came alive during her Meltdown festival. From the incredible, global line-up we were privileged to host to the sheer joy and entertainment of our public programme, the whole team has been buoyed by the enthusiasm shown by our visitors and the artists whose creativity has been influenced by Grace’s unique talent and legacy. An unmatched visionary, Grace Jones’ vintage Meltdown will certainly be one for the ages.’