There doesn’t seem to be any music genre singer Tom Jones cannot capture. On Friday evening in Seattle, the Welsh superstar performed a two-hour set that focused on R&B, gospel, rock, country, jazz and several of his enormously famous tracks. Those especially famous? I’m talking “Delilah,” “It’s Not Unusual,” “Kiss,” “Sex Bomb,” plus one of my extra special favorites, “What’s New Pussycat?”. And he can rap (this should not surprise me), as shown in a fantastic live version of “If I Only Knew.” And he sings those traditional gospel and R&B songs with deep respect for their American origins. Two of the show’s songs, “Didn’t It Rain” and “Strange Things Happening Every Day” were by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, an underappreciated – and pioneering – female African American guitarist and songwriter.
And Jones’ covers really do have their own spin. The show’s arrangement were unique; I’m particularly thinking of the band arrangement of “Talk to Me Baby,” which was fantastic ensemble work. It’s not all about Jones, and it’s refreshing that someone of such fame can share a stage with other talented musicians – even showcase them. The group, including horn players/backup singers; drummer; keyboard and piano players; a bassist and two guitarists, was an important accompaniment to Jones. The horn section had synchronized moves to the music. Hey, I love that kind of thing. As for Jones’ voice, it was deep and beautiful in the Paramount, displaying a strength all its own. I heard a lot of passion and zero error. There’s no one else with a voice like that.
My introduction to Tom Jones came via two soundtrack songs: “What’s New Pussycat?” from the film “What’s New Pussycat?” (one of my favorite movies; I recommend it) and “Thunderball,” from the James Bond movie, Thunderball. Other people have their own introductions, of course; for me, it was all about the pussycat and the dramatic lyrics of Thunderball: Any woman he wants, he’ll get. He will break any heart without regret. I’m convinced Jones can sing anything with earnest sorrow, lust. . . or fun, and you can feel it. You can smell it.
As you’d hope for and expect from any Tom Jones show, there was loads of colorful lighting and visuals to go along with the songs. Lips covered the screen during Jones’ smashing cover of Prince’s “Kiss,” yet a bit of a surprise for me was the selection of spiritual songs. This is a man who reflects on his life and soul, and communicates that faith artistically. One of his first hits, “Green, Green Grass of Home,” displayed how this has always been something he’s taken seriously, and that song acted as a true and coherent bridge to his more recent works. There’s definitely the fun-loving Tom Jones, but there’s always an artist, one choosing songs to share with fans, at work. Many of the evening’s songs came from recent albums, Long Lost Suitcase, Spirit in the Room and Praise & Blame; this is understandable, as the tracks were lovely, but also at thirty nine albums, he must be a wee bit interested in sharing newer renditions. “What a Wonderful World” was gorgeous.
Very dapper in blue, Jones talked to the audience frequently, telling stories about his life. He mentioned working as an apprentice glove maker in a Welsh factory, and how they kept the radio on all the time at the factory. They did that, he said, “to keep us happy.” And those songs did keep him happy: he can remember hearing Little Willie John’s “Take My Love (I Want to Give It All to You)” for the first time there. He also told us about meeting a girl (they were both teenagers) at a dance club one night. That girl became his wife!
Into the Ark, an impressive Welsh duo (trio for the tour) opened. The band was discovered by Jones on the show The Voice UK, on which Jones is one of the judges. In addition to their opening set, they performed with Jones for “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” and “Ring of Fire.” I would see them on their own for sure. When they were onstage with him, Jones talked about all the UK areas, and how the males in England, Ireland, Scotland are called men. In Wales? They’re Welsh boys. And that’s fine with Jones, who says he doesn’t want to grow up. I get it. I also got it when, several times during his set, he held his arms out in a stage embrace and said, “Oh yeah.”
Oh yeah, for sure.
Burning Hell – Praise & Blame (John Lee Hooker cover)
Run On – Praise & Blame (folk song cover)
Mama Told Me Not to Come – Decade in the Sun: Best of Stereophonics (Randy Newman song)
Didn’t It Rain – Praise & Blame (Sister Rosetta Tharpe cover)
Raise a Ruckus – Long Lost Suitcase (gospel song cover)
Did Trouble Me – Praise & Blame (Susan Werner song)
Sex Bomb – Reload
Take My Love (I Want to Give It All to You) – Long Lost Suitcase (Little Willie John cover)
Talk to Me Baby/I Can’t Hold Out (Willie Dixon cover)
(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay – When I Fall In Love (Otis Redding cover)
Ring of Fire – Green, Green Grass of Home (June Carter/Kilgore)
Delilah – Delilah (Reed/Mason/Whittingham song)
Soul of a Man – Spirit in the Room (Blind Willie Johnson cover)
Tower of Song – Spirit in the Room (Leonard Cohen cover)
Green, Green Grass of Home – Green, Green Grass of Home (Putman song)
What’s New Pussycat? – What’s New Pussycat? (Bacharach/David song)
It’s Not Unusual – It’s Not Unusual (Reed/Mills song)
You Can Leave Your Hat On – The Full Monty Soundtrack (Randy Newman cover)
If I Only Knew – The Lead and How To Swing It
I Wish You Would – Long Lost Suitcase (Billy Boy Arnold cover)
What a Wonderful World (Thiele/Weiss song)
Kiss – The Best of the Art of Noise (Prince cover)
Strange Things Happening Everyday – Praise & Blame (Sister Rosetta Tharpe cover)