Matrons and maidens alike melt to the magic of the master Tom Jones did not disappoint. The boy from the valleys was in fine fettle as he launched himself into the final set of his world tour in the UAE’s brand new venue, the Abu Dhabi Hall.
An already excited audience, which included a surprisingly large number of young people, settled into the big comfortable seats and did their best to remain there throughout the early numbers, but as soon as they heard the first few bars of Delilah they were on their feet apart from a few, mostly male, stalwarts who remained self-consciously seated.
Even they gave up the unequal struggle in the end in the face of an onslaught of Spandex-clad, oestrogen-fuelled female passion. They just love the Jones Boy, see.
Maybe some of the skirts were a bit too short on fans who won’t see 40 again, the tops a little too low cut for comfort and the freshly highlighted hair a tiny bit too bright, but after all the man himself was up there, belting out the musical backdrop to many of their lives and they were going to enjoy every last minute of what turned out to be a fantastic concert.
The new venue can seat 6,000 people but as soon as Sir Tom announced, “I don’t mind if you want to dance,” they – or should I say we – needed no further encouragement to leap to our feet and launch into long-forgotten finger pointing moves that rolled back the years.
There was a tricky moment when something that looked like a piece of clothing was hurled on to the stage and a posse of security men descended on a couple of women in the front rows.
Two more suspicious looking bundles got the evil eye from the bouncers but turned out to be large Welsh flags which Jones acknowledged with a grin and a wave.
At 70, he’s stopped dyeing his hair, his stage clothes are subdued blues and greys, and the old pelvic thrusts made only a brief and jokey appearance, but the voice was as strong as ever and he even hit the top notes of Thunderball, no mean feat at his age.
He cleverly mixed the old favourites like Green Green Grass of Home with new songs such as Sugar Daddy, written for him by Bono after they bumped into each other in a Dublin nightclub, and the Prince hit Kiss, which appeals to younger fans. Clearly pleased by the rapturous reception, he sang right through to the end without only the briefest break to change his sweat-soaked shirt.
He’s not called The Voice for nothing, but more than that, he’s a brilliant live performer and knows how to work an audience. The organisers could not have wished for a better opening concert for the Abu Dhabi Hall.
It was worth every mile of the long drive back to Dubai for me at any rate. With the summer heat fast approaching, this spacious, air-conditioned venue is going to be a treat.
Philippa Kennedy, The National