Veteran rockers up to the challenge

GRANT BRYANT IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2014
Mickey Thomas
GRANT BYRANT/Fairfax NZ

STANDING HIS GROUND: Starship frontman Mickey Thomas, flanked by 10cc frontman Graham Gouldman, holds a leaf sprig rautapu high in the wero, or challenge phase of his first ever powhiri, performed by Tetuhi Purakau. The veteran rock groups, along with a large entourage, received the fierce welcome, along with a more mellow one from Queenstown Mayor Vanessa van Uden, when they touched down at Queenstown Airport yesterday for their Saturday concert.

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Veteran American rockers Starship and 10cc were "blown away" by the first powhiri they received on their three-stop tour of New Zealand, when they touched down in Queenstown yesterday.

The groups, along with headliners Lynyrd Skynyrd, play a triple-header which is expected to sell out at Gibbston on Saturday.

Starship frontman Mickey Thomas, who accepted a sprig leaf during the wero, or challenge phase of the welcome, said he had been briefed on how the ceremony would play out, but still was not quite prepared for its intensity.

"I've never experienced anything quite like this," he said.

"I didn't know if we were going to be welcomed, or have to fight, but I did get briefed on the ceremony so knew it was a test - and it really was. I knew I had to stand my ground, but still be passive, and it was a wonderful feeling to be welcomed in such a fierce way."

The powhiri was followed by a more mellow welcome from Queenstown Mayor Vanessa van Uden.

So far the triple-header has rolled through dates in Matakana, north of Auckland, and Taupo.

Greenstone Entertainment chief executive officer Amanda Calvert said the 13,000 tickets had already been sold for the 15,000 capacity Gibbston outdoor venue, and that a sell-out was a high probability.

"It's pretty typical of Kiwis to have that last-day flurry. Some people won't have made their minds up, and some will be watching to see what the weather does. The weather's looking great, so we're expecting it to be a full capacity day where everyone can have some great fun in the sun."

Typically the annual concerts Greenstone put on in Gibbston attracted the widest regional audiences of the tour, with great Southland representation among the Wakatipu and wider Otago crowds, Ms Calvert said.

It was also the stop most eagerly anticipated by the artists.

"Everyone's already heard so much about Queenstown, and a lot of the artists have been googling furiously to get themselves pinpointed on what they want to do while they're here."

As an avid wine fan, Thomas was looking forward to sampling some Central Otago pinot noirs and some purchases to add to his cellar. As he was travelling with his wife, he was also grateful Valentines Day would fall tomorrow.

"We're in a beautiful place on a special day, so we'll make sure we make it count," he said.

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- The Southland Times

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