Rhondda Leader Tom Jones fans packed outside the Muni Arts Centre when it opened its doors last Wednesday. It followed the announcement of the May show to be held in Ynysangharad Park. The queue streamed down the side of the Pontypridd building by the time it opened at 9am, as news spread of Jones The Voice's homecoming. Fans with cash and credit cards at the ready waited patiently for the £32.50 tickets and were not even bothered when it started to rain. There were 25,000 tickets up for grabs for the May 28 concert, but a limited number of 2,000 went on sale at the Muni the day before going on general release. It was all part of Tom's plan to make sure the home audience got there first. The tickets were sold out in no time, with Muni Arts Centre Lisa Morris anxiously awaiting the second batch of tickets to arrive. Tom could have chosen Las Vegas, Paris, London or even Cardiff for his celebratory concert. But Ponty's proudest son wanted to perform once again in the home town where his illustrious career started. It will be his only concert in the UK this year. "I spent the first 24 years of my life in Wales, so that never leaves you," said the proud Welshman. "I carry Wales with me all the time. It's part of me - I'm Welsh." Tom's show will be similar to those performed at venues across America, where he is now based. "I will come over with my band and do my 90-minute show and keep the big songs in," said Tom, who lives in Los Angeles, as details of the gig were unveiled. "I think the stuff I'm doing will be great, and I think people will love it." He will also be performing songs from his duets album Reload and from his latest album featuring Jools Holland. Fans are warned not to expect to see any other stars accompany him on stage. As his agent Phil Bowdery points out: "This is all about Tom." Bowdery said that performing in Pontypridd again - where Tom famously made his mark on the club and pub circuit as he started out during the late 1950s and early 1960s - was something the singer had wanted to do for a long time. "It was a question of finding the right venue and right time," said Bowdery. "And due to the significance of this year, it was absolutely perfect." Tom's agent believes that on the night the superstar will be more than a little emotional, as he catches up with his old friends. "I don't think it can be anything other than emotional," said Bowdery. The concert - the first to be performed at Ponty Park and promoted by the PopFactory, in Porth - will certainly be a far cry from Tom's last performance in Pontypridd, in 1964. While he now commands thousands for a performance, for his pub gig he received just £10 - which he divided with his band. "It will be the first time for me to play a gig of that size in Ponty," said Tom of his anniversary concert. "The last time, before I moved to London, I played in the top room of the White Hart Pub." Although the pub may now be an empty shell of a building, the young musician who once played there is now a global phenomenon. Although the Pontypridd concert will mark Tom's 65th birthday, which is actually on June 7, the singer shows no sign of slowing down. He says he probably sings more now than he ever has before. "I'm singing most of the time," said Tom. "I love singing. If I was not doing a gig, I would be singing anyway." "People say, 'when will you retire?' but I say 'What to'?"
Shirley Fishwick in California reports... March 1st is St. David's day, the national holiday of Wales. This St. David's Day, March 1st 2005, was also the 40th anniversary of It's Not Unusual hitting number one on the charts. To mark the occasion, two of us at Tom's March 1 show in Las Vegas made an anniversary card and took it around so audience members could sign it. Even working with two pens so two people could sign at once there wasn't enough time for everyone to sign who wanted to. The front of the card, decorated with an orange dragon, said, "Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus! March 1, 1965 — St. David's Day — It's Not Unusual hits #1 — Happy 40th Tom! Keep It Up!" Inside it said, "Tom, We're happy to be with you on this special night!" Among the audience were lots of people from the UK (Manchester alone had six representatives), one couple from the town next to Pontypridd. One lady had been a fan since 1969 and had never seen him in person. Even staff from the Hollywood Theater signed. After the third song, Tom walked back to the stool with his water and picked up, first, a leek, explaining that the leek is the Welsh symbol and that it was St. David's Day. He did the same with a potted daffodil. That, of course, was our cue. Two of the women at our table lifted up the card. Tom came right over and accepted it. "Oh, look, you've gone the whole nine yards," he said, indicating the Welsh words and dragon. "Tom," said one of the women, "please open it." He did and saw all of the signatures. "My, everyone signed it, didn't they?" he asked. We asked if we could take a photo of him with the card and he posed. As always, he was charming and gracious and, as always, the show was smashing. Shirley Fishwick San Mateo, CA, USA, formerly of Llantrisant, Wales