As a photographer I’ve been face-to-face with black bears in the Virginia wilderness. As a diver, I’ve encountered black-tip reef sharks and nurse sharks on numerous occasions. However, nothing can compare to the heart-pounding experience that is 1500 screaming middle-aged-to-retired-age women at a Tom Jones concert.
Known for the artillery barrage of women’s panties that would cascade onto the stage, this concert, thankfully, only showcased one rather large pair of granny panties that were hoisted all helicopter-style two rows in front of me by a very happy older lady. She swung those panties proudly and hard; so much that an actual breeze fanned me as the elastic-waisted undies fanned the air four feet to my right.
Jones, a Welshman that has been responsible for setting female hearts racing uncontrollably since the late 1960s, played to a packed house at the Hard Rock Rocksino last Saturday night.
Backed by a solid nine-piece band, Mr. Jones took the stage and commanded the audience’s attention for a whopping twenty-three song set list that came in at a little under two hours.
Staples such as “What’s New, Pussycat?,” “It’s Not Unusual,” and his last big hit, a cover of Prince’s “Kiss,” peppered the evening’s entertainment.
Dominating the pop scene since the mid 1960s, Jones’s thick mane of black hair has now mellowed to a silvery white. His voice, however, hasn’t aged a bit. As many of his contemporaries face the inevitability of, gulp, old age, the 75-year old Jones sounds as good as he did in 1972.
The Welsh crooner has always been a difficult singer to peg; in which musical genre does he cleanly fit? Many might place him into the whole lounge singer/cabaret milieu. Others may say he’s a “fringe” rock singer. For a while he dabbled in country music. The beauty is that he’s all of those things and, then again, none of them.
He belted out a phenomenal rendition of “St. James Infirmary Blues” while his band wailed away on the Nola Jazz riffs. He sang several of Randy Newman’s tunes, who also has a hard time being pegged as a certain type of musician. Newman’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On” and “Mama Told Me Not to Come” led Jones squarely into rock territory, then he followed up with “Soul of a Man,” a Blind Willie Johnson cover.
Next up was a perennial favorite, “Green Green Grass of Home,” a lilting fantasia about yearning, mourning and a man’s final hours here on earth.
His three-song encore showcased his addition to the James Bond theme-song milieu, the eponymous “Thunderball” was really the only song that set Jones into a certain timeframe. And, just for reference, that Bond flick opened in 1965, a year before I was born.
Prince’s tune “Kiss” was co-opted by Jones in 1988 (with Art of Noise) and, remarkably, became a huge hit. He rounded out the encore with a rendition of “Kiss” as well as “Strange Things Happening Every Day.”
I gotta say, the Rocksino has been staging some incredible depth in their concerts this year. From Dolly Parton to Lyle Lovett and Loretta Lynn to Tom Jones; they’ve transcended their “Hard Rock” moniker and brought some amazing variety to Northeast Ohio over the last several months.
Tom Jones was the 64th act I’ve covered this year. Without a doubt, this show ranks up there in the top five shows I’ve seen since the new year started; make sure to catch him the next time he rolls through town.