To borrow a phrase, if you haven't seen Tom Jones lately, you haven't seen Tom Jones. Not content to slide on his well-known Vegas persona, Tom Jones has taken a hugely successful leap, collaborating musically with some of the hottest, most current, musical acts in the business. Much of the music Jones performed Sunday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena is on the "Tom Jones Reloaded" album. There are two versions of this CD available. If you have the chance to choose between the version available domestically or the import version; choose the import. After a brief, introductory music video, Jones opened Sunday night's show at the Arena with "Tom Jones International" which has a heavy, pounding baseline. The song is a collaboration between Jones and Wyclef Jean and it was the audience's first clue that this show was going to be different than a Tom Jones show of ten years ago. Sporting a goatee and looking athletic and fit at 65 years old, Jones came out in a purple suit with a black sequin shirt opened a few buttons down (not everything has changed), that was quickly drench in sweat. He and his three back up singers and six-piece band, moved right into "Momma Told Me Not to Come", also from his "Reloaded" album. "Momma" is a raw, funky, bluesy song that lends itself to Jones' strong, loud voice. Back on familiar territory for the audience, next up was "Delilah", but with a new arrangement and a picked up tempo and heavy electric guitar. Following that was "Just Help Yourself". Tom danced, jumped, slid and shook his way through this and all of the songs in his show. The mere suggestion of a hip swivel or gyration or thrust sent the audience into ecstasy. During both "She's a Lady" and "What's New Pussycat" there was the legendary tossing of panties onto the stage. This ritual was updated as well. A pair of men's boxer briefs joined the mix of undergarments on stage. Jones took it all in stride. For me, "What's New Pussycat" was a full-circle moment, having seen it performed the evening before, by its writer, Burt Bacharach.
Slowing things down a bit, Jones covered "We've Got Tonight" (Sheena Easton and Kenny Rogers had the hit with it). Jones' version had a reggae beat replacing the country twang in the well-known original. Slowing it down even further, Jones sang "Love Letters". His version was stripped down with grand sweeping notes that swept up and down the scale.
"Sex Bomb" was a huge, international hit for Jones, just a couple of years back. It topped the chart in the U.K. and Europe and made an appearance on the dance charts here in the U.S. The success of that song, was, I believe the impetus for Jones to update his act. It is fun and simple, with a catchy hook. On Sunday night, Tom tore it up. It was during this song that the newer fans were distinguished from Jones' seasoned fan base. For the newer fans, it was the song that they were waiting to hear.
The song that the long-time Tom Jones fans came to hear was "It's Not Unusual", which followed "Sex Bomb". It is almost unbelievable to me that it was recorded nearly (more than?) forty years ago. Jones sang it with his signature verve. Perfect. Not missing a proverbial beat in the last forty years. And exit.
Two encores followed, ending with his cover of Prince's "Kiss", a recording that breathed new life into his career a generation ago. The crowd was one its feet, dancing and bobbing and swaying. "Kiss" closed the fan generation gap. I mean, who doesn't love Tom Jones' version of "Kiss"?
If you haven't seen Tom Jones in a while, it is time to see him again. Also, I think, you should see him in a casino setting if you can, it just adds to the vibe. If you were thinking about seeing him this go 'round and didn't, make sure you do do next time.