You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
In an iconic career founded on thrillingly expanding the boundaries of pops possibilities, it is highly unlikely she has performed in a venue with a climbing wall and club rugby jerseys adorning the upper tiers, yet this merely added to the sense of occasion, as a clearly buoyant audience drifted in to witness history.
The unenviable task of readying the crowd fell to self-described electric blue witch hopper Estere, whose beguiling brand of fractured, futuristic R&B and stylistic sensibilities place her firmly in a lineage carved out by Jones herself.
Then, just after 10.30pm, Jones descended from the top of the stage, as if from Olympus, to the cavernous throb of Nightclubbing and for the next two hours showcased a ferocious energy that belies her 69 years, as she stalked the stage, gurned menacingly, and indulged in a maelstrom of costume changes.
Yet, given her impervious persona, the ebullient banter flowed as she joked "I can’t remember the last time I was here", before giving a patois lesson prior to My Jamaican Guy, and promising the faithful a quick skinny dip in Lake Wakatipu afterwards.
The reactions to Slave to the Rhythm, Pull Up to the Bumper, Love is The Drug and Warm Leatherette surely registered on the Richter scale — the thrilling call and response to the latter showcased an artist in complete command.
Likewise, her version of Amazing Grace — part arch self-aggrandizement, part show-stopping display of her gospel roots and vocal range, left both heart and throat aching. Fittingly, 2008’s Hurricane was the encore, which left those gathered in little doubt they had borne witness to an absolute force of nature.
- John Hayden