Tom Jones at the MGM Grand

Tom JonesBefore I begin this review, I have to post a disclaimer: I write reviews and criticism for a living and at all times try to be objective. That is true here, too. But I have to let you know that I am a Tom Jones fan. Jones began playing here almost 40 years ago and his is a remarkable record, in that he is by no means an oldies act like so many others who came up in the 60s. He hit a dry patch in his career but came back strong about 20 years ago with his take on the Prince hit, “Kiss.” He began to record with the UK’s best and brightest — Van Morrison, Robbie Williams, among them — and continues to succeed, changing musical genres, always experimenting. OK, now that we’re caught up on the career, how about the show?

For 90 minutes Jones performs a mix of his hits, some standards and, best of all, R& B and blues (both of which he does phenomenally well). His voice today might lack the range it had years ago, but it still has more range than almost any singer around. And it’s got more depth. As was true of the late, amazing, Ruth Brown, Jones’ voice just gets richer with age.

It’s worth noting that his audience is of all ages, both genders and from around the world. Thus, his appeal is, apparently, ageless and universal. And he’s not the same “medallion man” you might remember. The 740-seat Hollywood Theatre at the MGM is the perfect size venue in which to see him.

Like other performers, Jones changes his set list every so often. I’d like to hear him do more of the stuff he recorded a couple of years ago with British pianist Jools Holland or on the soundtrack of the Scorsese PBS series,“Red, White and Blues” — kickin’ rock and roll, great blues. For a while he had more of those in this show than he does now and they are missed.

A trio of standards replaced some of the rock and roll. They reach back in time to his earliest act, put in now, he says, because “a lot of people are singing standards today.” They’re good, especially, “Here’s That Rainy Day,” but he doesn’t need them. Tom Jones was singing standards long before Rod Stewart or Barry Manilow and he has nothing to prove in this area.

He shines on Hoobastank’s “The Reason,” and on the Bill Withers tune, “Grandma’s Hands.” “Git Me Some” with it’s none-too-subtle lyrics is a perfect song for Jones who also makes Howlin Wolf’s “300 Pounds of Joy” his own, lopping off 100 pounds and playing up every innuendo in the lyric. Jerry Lee Lewis’ “End of the Road” gets a rousing treatment and this is clearly a genre he loves. It’d be great to hear more of that.

Jones’ hits receive a lot of time too, done full-length, not as a medley. Personally, I wouldn’t be at all upset if he’d replace “She’s A Lady” with “Daughter of Darkness” or “Love Me Tonight.” But, on the whole, this is what people come to hear and he hits each of them out of the ballpark.

He opens with “Raise You Hand,” the old Ike and Tina Turner tune and it’s kind of dated. One of his encore songs, “Resurrection Shuffle, “ is dated, too, but it probably wouldn’t hurt anyone to “make a peace sign” these days. The Bodyrockers’ “I Like the Way,” also an encore number, gets the entire house — even the MGM ushers — up dancing and singing along.

The backing in the show is by an eight-piece band and a trio of singers. They are first rate and deserve the kudos he gives them. Las Vegas is full of outstanding musicians and these are, even here, among the best.

So, back to the original question: Should you see this show? It’s probably no surprise that I’d say a resounding “yes.” And, before you dismiss that opinion because I am a fan and, therefore, prejudiced in Jones’ favor, I will tell you that everyone I’ve ever brought to the show for the first time, or just encouraged to see it, has thanked me. They may not like him as much as I, but they recognize the pure talent that has kept him going for all these years.

Tom Jones is one of a kind and not to be missed — either in Las Vegas or anywhere else. By Ellen Sterling