Saturday, April 25, 2009
The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater
Better Than: A time-capsule set to 1971
Of all the many remarkable things to be said about seeing Tom Jones stage these days -- and trust me, there are many remarkable things to be said -- perhaps the single most remarkable thing is how seamlessly the songs from his latest longplayer -- 24 Hours -- fit in with his collection of hits. In fact, many of the tracks seem to come from the very same peachy-keen playbook as his classics. And the best of them could easily have become hits of their own.
Naturally, last night's show opener would've worked as well then as it does now. After all, it's Tommy James and the Shondells' "I'm Alive," the B-Side to '69's "Crystal Blue Persuasion," which makes it straight from Jones's prime. But so would've the Bacharachian "If He Should Ever Leave You," the bossa-tinged "In Style and Rhythm" and the swinging "Give a Little Love," and Jones co-wrote all three relatively recently.
So too the slower numbers pulled from 24 Hours -- "The Road" and
"Seasons" -- both of which Jones also co-wrote. The former, a love song
for Linda, his wife of 51 years, is a soaring homage soaked in devotion
and rendered with a classicist's pen; the latter's an almost hymn-like
paean to a life lived to full and blessed ends. And each revealed a
side to the troubadour previously gleaned only through his many
And though Jones did pepper his set with whole
handfuls of his newer offerings, there was no shortage of those stellar
interpretations. Randy Newman's raucous "Leave Your Hat On," Bill
Withers' withering "Grandma's Hands," Bacharach and David's torching
"I'll Never Fall in Love Again, "Bart Howard's sky-high "Fly Me to the
Moon" and Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's devilish "That Old Black
Magic," in no particular order, all came stunningly alive, and all
became better for Sir Tom's trademark belting.
But as good as
were each of the above, it was for the hits that the sold-out crowd of
mostly women had come, and it was the hits that Jones delivered, with
the panache of a man born to perform.
And, thankfully, aside
from a little heavier edge to "Delilah," Sir Tom delivered his
signature songs relatively straight for the man-chasers. And why
wouldn't he? When something's already perfect, there's no need for
tweaking. So "She's a Lady" was embellished only by Sir Tom's swiveling
version of the Duck Walk; "What's New Pussycat?" had but a slightly
more animated man at hand, and "Green Green Grass of Home" lacked
everything other than its essential beauty.
After the kitschy,
disco-hustle of "Sex Bomb," Sir Tom went out with the bang of "It's Not
Unusual" and there wasn't voice in the room that didn't sing along.
That a sixty-eight year-old cat could make a forty-four year-old track
crackle with such fiery cool may be even more remarkable than anything
else I've mentioned. Then again, when it's Tom Jones you're talkin'
about; remarks are always gonna come in abundance.
Personal Bias: My mother was -- and is -- a huge fan of the man, so his hits are indelibly etched into my thick head.
Random Detail: Sir Tom sported a glittering gold pinkie ring -- on each hand!
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SHOW ME HOW
the Way: I do have one beef. That Jones didn't preface his encore
versions of The Shocking Blue's "Venus" and Prince's "Kiss" with the
title track to 24 Hours. Anyone who read last
week's preview knows it's my favorite song on the LP.