Even in an age when graying, wrinkly leading men romance starlets one-third their age, the idea of a 66-year-old sex symbol should be preposterous, but in his Hollywood Bowl debut Friday night, Tom Jones managed to pull it off. Yes, the panties that were tossed onto the stage were more likely to be from JCPenney than Agent Provocateur, but Jones (that's "Sir Tom" to you, as the introduction reminded the aud) retains enough of his swagger and winking, randy charm. Since his hit 1987 cover of Prince's "Kiss" with the Art of Noise, Jones, who also played the Bowl on Saturday, has insisted on his relevance by collaborating with younger artists, including Stereophonics, Jools Holland and his current British single, "Stoned in Love," recorded with electronic dance producer Chicane.
The hips may not swing as smoothly and the clothes don't fit as snugly -- and they're quickly soaked through with perspiration -- but his voice has held up; his hits ("It's Not Unusual," "Delilah" and "What's New Pussycat") still sound fresh and playful, he can still bring the heat on Jerry Lee Lewis' "End of the Road" and quasi-operatic power to the torch ballad "Love Letters." He may be Great Britain's sweatiest life peer, but he's an entertainer, a talent that age can't dim.
The Pete Escovedo Orchestra opened the show with a 40-minute set of easy-going Afro-Cuban jazz. While the horn section (especially Arturo Velasco on trombone) and pianist Joe Rotundi were impressive, the real thrill of their perf was watching the interplay between Escovedo and his sons Juan and Peter Michael (and daughter Sheila E., who sat in) on percussion.
Tom Jones; Pete Escovedo Orchestra (Hollywood Bowl; 17,391 seats; $145 top) Presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Society. Reviewed July 21, 2006, closed July 22, 2006. Bands: TJ: Brian Monroney (musical director), Ken Anderson, Sharon Hendrix, Darelle Holden, Herman Matthews, Michael Mennell, Peter Olstad, Tony Reynolds, Kevin Richardson, Frank Strauss, Mike Turnbull; PEO: Pete Escovedo, Juan Escovedo, Peter Michael Escovedo, Joe Rotundi, Mark Van Wangeningen, Michael Angel, Kerry Loeschen, Arturo Velasco, Sal Cracchiolo, Mario Gonzalez, Alex Murzyn, special guest, Sheila E. Opened,
By STEVEN MIRKIN