IT'S Blue Monday, scientifically calculated to be the most depressing day of the year, but Tom Jones is in town to cheer us all up with a swivel of the hips and his lusty, mischief-making holler. Right?
Not exactly. Tom Jones has got The Blues and he's spreading them around the pristine environs of the Concert Hall, in a righteous coup for Celtic Connections. While the festival regularly attracts folk heavyweights and world music superstars, this concert felt different, even bizarrely exotic. Jones the Voice has been booked to perform his latest album, Praise & Blame, a comparatively sober interpretation of gospel, blues and country standards which, he informed the crowd, was all Elvis Presley's idea in the first place.
Uncharacteristically for a Jones show, the atmosphere was muted as he took the stage, but his funereal version of Dylan's What Good Am I? hardly invited wild participation. And it would be plain inappropriate to throw undergarments at a man contemplating the very core of his being.
After this sombre opening, Jones let rip on the meaty blues strut of Lord Help. He got gruff and grizzly on the low-slung Nobody's Fault But Mine and hit the depths of his vocal range on Burning Hell, accompanied by some blistering guitar work. On the side of the angels, he summoned a testifying spirit on Strange Things, displayed celebratory gospel gumption on Pops Staples' Don't Knock and rocked the rhythm of a revival meeting on Didn't It Rain.
The country confessional If I Give My Soul sounded like something he might have cut back in the 60s, along with his encore of Green, Green Grass Of Home. But in rounding off with the unabashed cheese of It's Not Unusual it felt like Jones was throwing the fans a bone rather than keeping the courage of his convictions.
By Fiona Shepherd
Picture: Robert Perry