Back in 1968, when Tom Jones began a series of shows at the Copacabana in New York, crazed female fans started throwing their undergarments on stage. Nearly 40 years later, the embarrassing tradition continues, as evidenced throughout a packed gig at Pechanga on Friday night. Backed by a proficient 11-piece band (including horn section), the Welshman - now 67 - was in robust vocal form and played up his sex appeal at every turn. This decade has seen a career resurgence for Jones, particularly abroad. "Reload," a 1999 CD of duets with Van Morrison, The Pretenders, Robbie Williams, Barenaked Ladies, Stereophonics and others, went No. 1 in England and moved 4 million copies worldwide by the following year.
In 2002, the singer teamed up with Wyclef Jean for the funky studio album "Mr. Jones." He returned to the U.K. charts in '06 when "Stoned in Love," a collaboration with electronica act Chicane, reached the top 10 in Britain. Recently, "This is Tom Jones" (a compilation of clips from the entertainer's 1969-1971 variety series on ABC ), came out Stateside.
Clad in a sleek purple suit, Jones opened the 75-minute set with a vigorous "Raise Your Hand," a 1967 Stax hit for Eddie Floyd (popularized by Janis Joplin and later, Bruce Springsteen on "Live 1975-85"). His own Latin-tinged top 40 single from "Help Yourself," followed. More than a few ladies surely wanted to take Jones' lyrics - "help yourself to my lips, to my arms/just say the word and they are yours" as gospel. The dramatic ballad "With These Hands" went over well. Jones did some suggestive gestures during the pleading vocal in "Delilah" as his guitarist modernized the sound with a few metal licks and a woman held up a Welsh flag.
When the band launched into a Jerry Lee Lewis boogie woogie number, Jones managed to sing to the quick rhythm without tiring out; an understated Van Morrison cover fit like a glove. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said of the now de rigeur standards segment featuring "Fly Me to the Moon" and "That Old Black Magic." They dragged the set down, but not for long.
Jones had fun with an energetic "She's a Lady," snarling like a tiger as '60s-era models appeared on the screens. "What's New Pussycat?" (where the singer danced and someone threw a wig onstage instead of undies) and "You Can Leave Your Hat On" (from "The Full Monty" film soundtrack) were equally soulful.
Signature songs "Green Green Grass of Home" and "It's Not Unusual" went down a storm.
The latter was driven by punchy horns as archival Jones B&W clips were projected. Dance fever ensued for "Sexbomb." The encore section found a bunch of women crowded against the stage. For the encores, they watched Jones strut his stuff (high stepping, teasing gestures) up close on the sizzling 1988 Art of Noise collaboration of Prince's "Kiss."
Where: Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula http://www.presstelegram.com/ci_7573062