BEIRUT: In the midst of his world tour, 71-year-old Welsh superstar and living legend Tom Jones stopped by Beirut for a one-night stand at the Forum de Beyrouth Sunday evening.
For two hours, on his first trip to Lebanon, the elegantly dressed Jones delivered a powerful and charismatic performance, playing some of his most famous tunes – “Sex Bomb,” “It’s Not Unusual,” “Delilah” and “She’s a Lady.”
A pop culture icon since the mid-1960s, Jones – aka Sir Thomas John Woodward – has sold over 100 million records. He acquired international fame after recording many number-one hits and taking advantage of his musical versatility that allows him to pole vault from pop and rock to country and blues to, well, Prince.
At the Forum Sunday Jones demonstrated that, even after 46 years, he still knows how to take a large audience in hand. Young and old, the full house sang and danced to Jones’ lead. Some even waved a Welsh flag in tribute.
Unlike some great performers and artists, Jones took the time to adorn the spell betweens some tunes with anecdotes. He explained how, in the summer of 1964, the public discovered him thanks to his first single “Chills and Fever.” When the first notes echoed through the hall, the audience came to its feet in a fury of applause.
Jones’ iconic “Green, Green Grass of Home” was written by songwriter Claude Putman Jr. in 1964 and Jones shared the details of his New York encounter with Jerry Lee Lewis – another renowned entertainer who also sang this song in 1965 – and who advised Jones to record it.
At several points during the show, some audience members lit and shook their cigarette lighters in the air. Clearly few audience members felt excluded from the festivities.
Written by Barry Mason in 1968, “Delilah” was welcomed by Jones’ Lebanese audience with great enthusiasm. The moment the guitarist played the first notes of the tune, spectators screamed like heavy metal acolytes.
Jones was also impressive in his demonstrating himself to be down-to-earth and humble. He, not infrequently, applauded his musicians. Every time an instrumentalist leaned into a solo, the maestro took a few steps back as if to say, “This is his moment now.”
Jones wasn’t interested in reminding people of his moldy oldies. He also belted out such recent cover songs as “Kiss” and “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” At the beginning of any familiar song the crowd continued to offer vocal assurances of approval.
First hitting the charts in 1986 when sung by the American artist formerly known as “Prince,” “Kiss” was re-worked into another chart-topper by Jones in 1988, working in collaboration with the ensemble Art of Noise.
Jones’ Sunday interpretation of the tune stank of sensuality and power, transforming many female audience members – even the mature ones – once again into screaming fanatics.
Anecdotal accounts suggest that Jones’ rendition of Joe Cocker’s 1986 hit “You Can Leave Your Hat On” – which climaxed when he tore off his blazer and cast it to the stage floor – corresponded to an extreme temperature-rise in the Forum.
Who’s to say there’s no sexiness after 70?
November 15, 2011 01:12 AM By Chirine Lahoud The Daily Star