Tom Jones belts 'em out

Tom JonesHe's still got it. After more than 40 years performing, Tom Jones has his vocals and his sex appeal intact. The 66-year-old international star whooped it up for an audience of 2,500 last night in the RBC Theatre of the John Labatt Centre -- strutting his stuff, shaking his hips and bellowing out old and new hits. Dressed in black with a beaded shirt and a gold cross over his chest, Jones performed disco, funk, rock 'n' roll, pop and ballads and did it with style. Not surprising really, when he has survived the music fads of four decades-plus and collaborated with different generations of singers to stay current. Prince, Talking Heads, The Pretenders are just some of the artists with whom he's worked. Prince seemed to have some influence in Jones' lighting last night. He clearly likes purple. The crowd of mainly middle-agers and up -- you could tell it was an older group when the lighters came out -- got going as the first chords of Delilah, his smash hit single from 1968, were heard four songs in. "Are we going to have a good time tonight?" he sang to the audience. "Is everything all right so far?"

He kept asking the questions and the crowd's cheering and fist pumping was his answer. It was the women in the audience who were showing the most appreciation for the still-svelte Jones. Panties hit the stage shortly after Delilah. It has come to be expected at a Tom Jones' concert. What was not expected was the man clad in white who danced his way up to the stage and tossed a pair of men's briefs at the feet of Jones, who was clearly amused. "Was that a man that brought those up? You never know nowadays," Jones said.

We could respectfully call him Sir Tom Jones, as he received his knighthood from the Queen this year at Buckingham Palace. But Jones didn't have the respect of everybody last night. A couple of women were impatient to have him start the show -- he was five minutes late. "Maybe he's having a hard time getting up the stairs," one woman said. Ouch. But the Wales native wasn't reticent to make fun of himself. As he led into a song, he told the audience he couldn't remember if it was written in the late '50s or early '60s. "The memory is the second thing to go. The only problem is, I can't remember what the first thing is," he joked.

While he did some newer material, such as dance track Stoned in Love that was released April 24 and entered the U.K. charts at No. 8 the next week, the fans appreciated the old hits the most. It's Not Unusual (1965), What's New Pussycat (1965), I'll Never Fall in Love Again (1967), and Green, Green Grass of Home (1966) had many on their feet singing along. His Green, Green Grass number was sung with such power and passion, it was a shame only 2,500 got to hear it.

A line in that song, "The old house is still standing" seems fitting for Jones. It doesn't look like he plans on being knocked down any time soon. Sun, July 16, 2006 By KATHY RUMLESKI, FREE PRESS REPORTER