Live Last Night: Tom Jones
Here's one sure way for a veteran pop star to deflate an eager audience: by announcing that he's going to perform most of his new album. That's what Tom Jones did Wednesday night at the 9:30 club, promising he'd highlight material from his underwhelming new album, "24 Hours."
But there were no cries of protest from the crowd, which came for the likes of "Delilah" and "Green Green Grass of Home" but seemed entirely willing to accept such cliche-choked new ballads as "The Road" (it "always returns for you'') and "Seasons" (they "could not stay'').
If such mediocrities went down easy, it was partially because the Welsh-born belter handled all the songs with equal charm and alacrity. In black suit, black shirt and gray goatee, Jones dispatched 25 tunes in about 90 minutes, lingering over neither the hits nor the duds.
(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)
Jones repeatedly praised his crack band, which ranged from four musicians (for the vintage blues and rock-and-roll) to 11 (for the full Vegas effect). But he never allowed the group to stretch out, even on the funkier later material.
There was another reason that the emphasis on "24 Hours" didn't sap the show. Since Jones is an entertainer, not an artiste, it was understood that he'd do his best-known songs. Even the order was easy to guess. Before Jones took the stage, it was a safe bet that "It's Not Unusual" would end the main set, and that "Kiss" would be the last encore. And that's just how it happened.
So what's new, pussycat? Jones's latest album aside, not much. Although his bump-and-grind looked a bit grandfatherly, the now-knighted sexpot did shake his bottom and grab his crotch. He wasn't showered with lingerie, but a few small garments hit the stage, and the singer's big reveal -- removing his jacket -- was greeted with squeals.
In theory, the detour from supper-clubs to Washington's leading rock club shouldn't have worked at all. While clearly still popular, Jones is trapped between worlds. He's long been unable to score a hit -- or even get most of his recent work released -- in the U.S., his home since the 1970s. In Wales, the Pontypridd native is iconic enough to collaborate with such young hitmakers as Stereophonics, yet has nothing but nationality in common with them.
Although only a few years younger than Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger, Jones missed the mid-'60s shift from pop to rock. He still follows the old Top 40 formula, holding his songs to about three minutes, and handling them all with the same earnest vigor. On Wednesday, he drained the irony from "You Can Leave Your Hat On," and delivered such lines as "I wanna die" without a hint of actual regret.
"It takes more than memories/To make it through the night," sings Jones on his new album, and he does have more: His baritone is still robust, and his body is (reasonably) lithe. Nonetheless, his 9:30 show depended more than a little on the memories.
-- MARK JENKINS
By J. Freedom du Lac |
February 26, 2009; 1:32 PM ET
Live Last Night
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