HE MAY be old enough to claim a free bus pass, but Sir Tom Jones doesn't show any signs of slowing down. All right, he doesn't do much in the way of bumping and grinding any more. Instead he prowls around the stage and does this thing with his hands, like a bad Tommy Cooper impersonation, or a mime of someone whose sleeves are too long. Sometimes he'll open his palms and stare heavenwards, eyes bulging, a la Al Jolson, although there was one high-ish kick that drew admiring gasps, plus a little skip during What's New Pussycat (the number, incidentally, when the audience, almost as one, swayed from side to side, looking from above like a giant table football game.) A near-capacity crowd of 4,600 adoring fans packed the Bournemouth International Centre for the second date of the first nationwide tour in three years by the man they call simply "The Voice". And those famous tonsils were in fine fettle - at least, most of the time - although just occasionally, as in a distorted Stoned In Love, Jones did seem to lose his way. He's a master showman, though, and all those years on the chicken-in-the-basket variety club circuit, and later Las Vegas, have honed an act that's slicker than an oil tanker spill.
Dressed in a dark blue suit and shiny black shirt, Jones knows how to get the ladeez going. That crinkly hair, that devilish goatee beard, those moves and - above all - those mighty lungs. Deep and seemingly effortless, the Jones voice is indeed a thing of wonder. Delilah, my personal favourite, came four songs in, and a belter it was too - unlike the dirge that preceded it, a new number called The Reason. Just Help Yourself was chucked in early doors also, along with Mama Told Me Not To Come, the Three Dog Night song he reprised with The Stereophonices.
A selection of standards inclu-ding Fly Me To The Moon and That Old Black Magic, showed the mettle of the eight-piece band and three backing singers. But it was when he launched into a country and western-tinged version of the Green, Green Grass of Home that Jones finally looked relaxed and started to enjoy himself as much as the women who could-n't sit still, sit down or stop wav-ing their knickers in the air. You Can Leave Your Hat On, from The Full Monty, and Sex Bomb turned up the heat, and It's Not Unusual had practically everyone on their feet. Resurrection Shuffle and I Like The Way You Move were the encores, with Kiss a fitting showstopper. Jones the Voice is still alive and kicking.