Tom Jones evaluation – nonetheless displaying gorgeous prowess at 81
“I simply considered one thing,” muses Tom Jones, midway by way of a deft and transferring set. “The final time I did a present, I used to be in my 70s. Now I’m in my 80s. How about that?” The roar of applause almost takes the roof off.
He’s, certainly, 81 now, however time has neither dimmed Jones’s lustre nor tamed his ferocious vocal cords. Having way back secured nationwide treasure standing, this august showbiz icon now gazes out at a loyal crowd from a craggy visage that may not look misplaced hewn from a mountainside.
Crammed collectively, with hardly a Covid masks in sight, that crowd is up for a singalong get together, however Jones has different concepts tonight. As an alternative of trawling by way of his huge catalogue of hits, he performs his latest album, the chart-topping Surrounded By Time, in full.
It’s a dangerous technique, however one which works because of the inherent high quality of that sombre, typically serene album of covers. His fourth produced by musical soulmate Ethan Johns, it sees Jones vary by way of types and genres whereas placing his inimitable vocal stamp on every tune.
That stamp is finest summarised by the technical phrase “giving it a little bit of welly”. Even into his ninth decade, the facility and precision of Jones’s stentorian baritone stay staggering; his timbre is near miraculous on the opening I Gained’t Crumble With You If You Fall, a soul lament initially sung by Candy Honey within the Rock founder Bernice Johnson Reagon.
Earlier than cabaret and Vegas beckoned within the late 60s, Jones was an insatiable, leather-lunged R&B belter. He retains that capability, even when his bellowed tackle Cat Stevens’s twitchy Pop Star interprets the tune moderately as a steamroller interprets a freshly laid stretch of asphalt.
Jones’s attraction lies as a lot in his ability as an easy raconteur as in his vocal chops. Taking to a excessive stool earlier than the spoken-word Speaking Actuality Tv Blues, he remembers wartime ration books, the Queen’s coronation, and being bedridden for 2 years with TB as a toddler: “So, you see, I used to be in lockdown even again then!”
His slick band present a nuanced sound mattress for his supremely strong voice. Michael Kiwanuka’s I Gained’t Lie is rendered as moody electronica. Much less efficiently, the hushed awe of the Waterboys’ This Is the Sea is buried beneath an over-effusive, bombastic blare.
It’s a uncommon misstep on an evening of consummate musical prowess. Jones eases his means by way of Bob Dylan’s tender One Extra Cup of Espresso, his take far more heartfelt and affecting than Dylan might handle at this time. His rumbling vocal on trad blues quantity Samson and Delilah seems to emanate from deep underground and surge up by way of his ft.
But the night time’s spotlight is the staggering I’m Rising Outdated. A spectral ballad, wealthy with intimations of mortality, it was first given to Jones by its author, jazz musician Bobby Cole, after a 1972 Vegas cabaret present. “I instructed Bobby: I’m not sufficiently old to sing this but, however possibly I’ll get there sooner or later!” recounts Jones. A pause, a sigh, a twinkle. “And now, nicely, right here we’re!” His subsequent pitch-perfect rendition of this beautiful lament triggers a richly merited standing ovation.
Jones ambles off after the album-closing Lazarus Man, and there are scattered boos from a crowd hoping for an encore roustabout by way of It’s Not Uncommon, Delilah or What’s New Pussycat? They don’t final lengthy. Right here was a memorable efficiency from a prodigious artist presently demonstrating no curiosity by any means within the idea of the dying of the sunshine.