Performance showed an artist in complete command

Iconic singer-songwriter Grace Jones performing at her first ever NZ show at the Queenstown...
Iconic singer-songwriter Grace Jones performing at her first ever NZ show at the Queenstown Events Centre on Friday. Photo: Lauren Constable
There's a line in the 1985 James Bond romp A View to a Kill where May Day (the impossibly Amazonian henchwoman not so much played as personified by Grace Jones) tells Bond that somebody will take care of you  — a glorious harbinger of what the fabulous Miss Jones did to the 1900 devotees who flocked to the Queenstown Events Centre to witness her first concert on these fair shores.

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

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