TO loud screams and thunderous applause, Tom Jones performed in his beloved Wales last night for the first time as a knight. Dressed in his signature dark suit, Jones - or Sir Tom - entertained fans in his homeland with a string of hits. It may have been just another date on his current UK tour, but for the superstar, being back in Wales once more was clearly a special occasion. "I would like to say it's great to be home once again," he said, to massive cheers. The build-up to the opening of the show was huge as a giant globe was beamed on to the screens either side of the stage. Three words flashed up, "Locating: The Voice". That voice was soon located and Sir Tom walked out onto the stage to entertain us. The sell-out show - the first of three at the Cardiff International Arena this weekend - was also the first time Sir Tom has sung here since his famous 65th birthday gig in Pontypridd in May 2005. At the time, about 20,000 fans packed into Ynysangharad Park to wish the town's most famous son many happy returns. While this concert may not have been on such a large - or emotional - scale, his fans were far from disappointed. Before the event, Sir Tom promised a real mixture of songs to keep even the most die-hard concert-goer happy. And he said that as well as all the old favourites which are guaranteed to get people up on their feet - Green Green Grass Of Home, What's New Pussycat and It's Not Unusual - he would be performing some new stuff as well as older material which he doesn't usually sing live.
"It's going to be an exciting show, and I'm really looking forward to it because there are going to be a lot of different songs in there," he said before the tour. How right he was. But while it was good to sample the new tracks, it was the old favourites that we were really there for, and when the opening chords of Delilah were struck not long into the show, the arena went wild. Although the audience spanned the generations it was mostly made up of older fans who would have enjoyed seeing Tom perform at the start of his career, as well as groups of 30- and 40-something women. The crowd really got into the spirit of the occasion, donning feather boas, Welsh rugby shirts, sparkly cowboy hats and even illuminated bunny ears, to sing along with their hero.
One group of devoted female fans wore T-shirts declaring "From Sex Bomb to Sir Tom", while a group of men donned dark curly wigs in a '60s style Tom Jones. He may be a little greyer around the edges and not as supple as he once was, but Sir Tom can still run rings around many men half his age. In fact, he still has that legendary wiggle and every time he did it, you could probably hear the screams across the Channel. And what about that voice? Well, as the singer himself said in a recent interview, it's as strong now as it ever was. At 66, the superstar has no plans for retirement and says he will continue for as long as his voice holds out.
And judging by last night's performance, he will continue for many years yet. We salute you, Sir Tom.
Karen Price, Western Mail