LIVE: TOM JONES – Perth, 13 March, 2016
Kings Park, Perth, Western Australia – Sunday, 13 March, 2016
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Anyone at Tom Jones’s sell-out Perth show with their hearts set on a Vegas-styled cabaret of fifty-year-old hits was in for disappointment, but the real winners were music fans of all ages.
First though, Odette Mercy opened the show with a polished set of middle-of-the-road soul, which was pleasant enough, but not strong enough on personality to elevate above background music. Jimmy Barnes’ daughter Mahalia took proceedings up a gear with a collection of classics and obscurities, alongside a couple of originals thrown in for good measure. Ain’t Never Loved A Man, an almost unrecognisable Bridge Over Troubled Water and Natural Woman showed different sides of the singer, whose vocals have matured into a force of nature, and a couple of covers of soul disco queen Betty Davis – especially He Was A Big Freak – showed she could belt them out with the best of ‘em. River Deep, Mountain High and set closer Proud Mary needed only a three piece horn section to transform her show into a full soul n’ roll revue.
It was still a hot 33 degrees when the Welsh star ambled on stage after a scorching hot day, impeccably showing off a sharp suit befitting his 75 years. His age hasn’t diminished his vocal abilities in any way though – Jones’ voice is like melted butter and honey throughout the two hour show. He also looked like he was melting as he removed his jacket a few songs in to reveal a half-soaked shirt that only got wetter as the night went on. Trooper he is though, there is no complaints: “I prefer the heat to the cold,” he declares before being gracious in Wales’ rugby defeat by England.
Burning Hell was the first song off the blocks, taken from 2010’s Praise & Blame – the first in a trilogy of excellent soul, gospel and early rock n’ roll records he has made with producer Ethan Johns.
It’s from these three albums that the majority of tonight’s set list is pulled, possibly to the confusion of some of the Welsh flag-waving oldies hoping to revisit their long-ago youth. It shouldn’t have come as any surprise though: the tour was always billed as celebrating the veteran’s rhythm & blues soul. Indeed, he is one of the headliners of this year’s Byron Bay Bluesfest.
That said, there was little sign of malcontent, as the big man’s vocals and endearing charm, as well as a smattering of older hits, kept the crowd cheering and singing, or letting the music wash over them like a tide.
Run On is introduced as a favourite of Elvis’s that Jones and The King sung after shows in their Vegas days, as they spent long nights in their hotel rooms listening to records and talking ‘til dawn.
The silver fox’s vocal is sonorous and rich on The Staple Singers’ Don’t Knock, Kings Park is oom-pah-pahed with a rare tuba solo, and Raise A Ruckus might be the best Dixie-fried country gospel tune ever performed by a Welsh pop star.
Never Gonna Fall In Love Again is a scorching torch song, while Soul Of A Man is a gorgeous Delta blues. He may have made his name on schmaltzy pop, but in Gillian Welch’s Elvis Presley Blues he evokes such a haunting Americana blues vibe that it’s hard to align this man with those fifty year old hits.
Jones gauges the crowd well and drops in just enough of his bigger hits to keep the die-hards happy. ‘90s hit Sex Bomb is reimagined with considerable swing and schwang, the sparks on the video backdrop mirroring those he shares with the lucky ladies in the front rows – and yes, there were knickers thrown.
The crowd go collectively wild as soon as they hear the opening strains of Delilah, rebooted here as a voodoo rag, New Orleans style, whilst Green Green Grass Of Home and Not Unusual similarly bring the house down.
We’d already had ample value for money with a sterling set by this stage, but there was plenty more to come. The Three Dog Night song Mama Told Me Not To Come (from his duets album Reload) was more soul than rock, You Can Leave Your Hat On boasted a fat groove, 1994’s If I Only Knew proves not only can he sing and rap, but he still has the moves, shaking his butt teasingly on stage, before I Wish You Would brings the main set to a close with a cool blues harp solo and some searing guitar.
The encore is a similarly mixed bag and all killer, no filler: first up there is his Bond theme Thunderball, then the hit Prince cover Kiss, his voice dripping like chocolate ganache and finale Strange Things Happening Every Day – a gospel song suggested him by Little Richard – is a gloriously high note to wrap things up with before the entire band line up at front of stage and in a sweet touch, get introduced one by one by Jones before a group bow.
More than just a show to cross off the bucket list, Tom Jones live in 2016 is a scorching experience of a supremely talented man who is still exploring his creative soul and refusing to be hamstrung by expectations of himself. And that one in a billion voice… simply, wow.
Filed Under: Live Reviews
About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE