As good as Tom Jones sounded musically - and the blues, gospel and R & B living lounge lizard's voice is in great shape - at the World Cafe Live on Thursday during the second day of the 2013 Non-Commvention, the 72 year old Welshman's stage patter was even better.
Do you know who Paul McCartney wrote "The Long and Winding Road" for? Tom Jones, that's who. That's according to Jones, who was playing the Triple A / Adult Alternative radio confab a day before performing for paying customers at the TLA on South Street tonight.
Back in 1970, Macca responded to Jones' repeated entreaties to write him a song by serving up "TLAWR," but his handlers advised him not to record it becasue he had a different hot hit single at the time. instead, The Beatles put it on Let It Be, and Jones finally got around to covering the Liverpudlian's "(I Want To) Come Home," on his rock solid new Ethans Johns produced Spirit In The Room.
Jones opened with a robust take Leonard Cohen's "Tower Of Song" and his set drew exclusively from Spirit and his 2010's Praise & Blame, which gave him reason to cover Richard Tompson and Blind Willie Johnson and talk about the late nights he and Elvis Presley spent in Vegas singing gospel songs in their hotel suite. ("Yeah, I'm sure that's what they were doing," one wag at the WCL quipped.)
And speaking of Vegas, the now frosty haired baritone took the time to shout out to various Philadelphians he encountered during his days in Sin City. Can we hear it for Cookie E. Jar & the Crumbs?! Freddie Bell & the Bellyboys? Frankie Avalon, anyone?
"This is a nice place," Jones said, looking around. "And the radio, too." (All Non-Comm performances are broadcast on WXPN-FM.) "I first came here in 1965," Jones said, remembering his first time through town with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars. "I like coming here." You get the feeling that he says that to all the cities, but at the same time, he really means it. After all, what's not to like? He's Tom Jones.
Dan DeLuca, Inquirer Music Critic You can read the full review at philly.com here