The enduring Tom Jones - New Straits Times Review

Die-hard Tom Jones fan ERROL DE CRUZ is elated that the silver-haired crooner is still as hot as everpix_topright THE Tom Jones warm-up party last Friday had begun early, more than three hours before the 8.45pm concert at the ballroom of the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. Irish pub Malone’s, just a stone’s throw away at Suria KLCC, was bursting with chatter from die-hard fans of the Welshman. Why, one middle-aged Mat Salleh was even showing off the knickers she had brought along to throw at him! Didn’t she know that Jones was hitting 70, and that there would be no hip swivelling or sexy gyrating that night? The show began with a duet from two young local artistes who performed four songs competently but seemed out of place opening the night for Jones.

One would have expected a veteran act such as the Alleycats, Strollers, Falcons or Heavy Machine to open the night for such a huge star. The audience, however, was generous with its applause and the duo left smiling, knowing they had done a good job and added a powerful gig to their portfolios. The silver-haired Sir Tom, on the other hand, was a totally different deal, a dream come true.

Dressed in a bright blue suit and his signature silver cross, he was full of charm as he breezed through two hours of hits that began with It’s Not Unusual followed by Sex Bomb, Kiss and his latest, 24 Hours. The sound for the first few songs — Sugar Daddy, Give A Little Love and his James Bond hit, Thunderball — was muffled and muddy, but his powerful vocals blasted through the night and kept the almost-packed hall that way for the rest of the night. These were followed by equally mesmerising renditions of Too Hard To Handle, and a touching piece titled Never (from the 24 Hours album).

“This was written for all of you for keeping me going, and for God who gave me this wonderful voice,” said Jones. While the fast Sex Bomb and Kiss got the audience up and moving, it was the slow, tear-jerking love ballads that showcased the golden vocals that have won the hearts of millions the world over. It began with his big hit I’ll Never Fall In Love Again which was followed by three country numbers — He’ll Have To Go, Green Green Grass Of Home and Save The Last Dance For Me — paying tribute to his early pub days in Wales when he would go onstage backed by no more than a small, tight rhythm section. While the first two country hits had Jones accompanied by three guitarists, the last number saw the entire band ganging up on him with an infectious cha-cha rhythm, complete with a blaring brass section. Born Thomas John Woodward on June 7, 1940, in Treforrest, Pontypridd, South Wales, he worked in several jobs before turning to music with a group called The Senators which performed lively music, pop, adult contemporary, country and dance genres. Jones was one of the first Welshmen to make an impact on international music and has been an international sex symbol for more than four decades.

His dramatic stage persona helped put Las Vegas on the map as a pop draw and he lays claim to having one of the broadest and most powerful vocal ranges.

His alternately crooning and booming voice allowed him to be seductive and sensitive at the same time. Jones’ original band’s early demos were virtually ignored by British radio because of his wildly gyrating sexual showmanship, but when It’s Not Unusual (written by his harmonica player Gordon Mills), reached the pirate-styled offshore Radio Caroline, it became an instant hit. Following that success was difficult at first, but by ditching the leather for a tuxedo and learning to croon as well as belt, Jones soon became an international superstar, and his move to country with Charlie “Curly” Putnam’s Green Green Grass Of Home further expanded his audience. Thanks to two wonderful TV shows — This Is Tom Jones and The Tom Jones Show — Jones remained a star from the 60s to the 90s, switching from checked shirts and country music to figure-hugging costumes and dance music. While Jones had several Top 10 hits — It’s Not Unusual, What’s New Pussycat?, I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, Without Love (There Is Nothing) and She’s A Lady, it was a country song — Say You’ll Stay Until Tomorrow — that finally gave him a No.

1 in 1971. There were also many laurels over the years and these included a Grammy award in 1965, the Order of the British Empire in 1999, a Knight Bachelor in 2006 and eventually a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Sticking to centre stage during the concert, with a band led by drummer and musical director Gary Watts, Jones crooned his love ballads and effortlessly belted out golden oldies such as Delilah and Leave Your Hat On, every song showcasing his grand vocals. Pulling a show like that when you’re a silver-haired daddy takes a ton of steel and that’s what Sir Tom Jones is all about.