Live Last Night: Tom Jones

(Helayne Seidman for TWP/File)

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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Your review reeks of bias from someone who had formed an opinion before going to the show. Tom only does a few songs from the new album. 75% of his set list are well-known/classic songs. You were way off target on this review!

Posted by: Tisha | February 26, 2009 2:40 PM

I was there. He was outstanding and crazy sexy -- hotter than ever, and what a voice! A young man in his 30's said to me after the concert "I want to be him."

If Elvis had lived instead of destroying himself, he may have had this level of success at this age that Tom Jones has. But Tom Jones kept it together and kept it going. Last night was not just a trip down memory lane with the faded image of the Tom Jones of years past. He was as exciting with his classics as he has ever been, and the new stuff was soulful and rich. The crowd loved it all and the Post review sounds just a little bit snarky and jealous. Perhaps the Post reviewers just need some women to throw thier panties at them to boost their self-esteem...

Posted by: cougar49 | February 26, 2009 3:30 PM

"crack band"?

Like "crack house? Or "crack baby"?

Posted by: tomtildrum | February 26, 2009 4:20 PM

I'm extremely disappointed in this review, as I was at this show.

I vehemently disagree with Mr. Jenkins.

"24 Hours" is a very good album. The opening song, "I'm Alive" is incredible. It hooked me immediately upon first listen.

Additionally, the title track, "24 hours", is most striking, especially the ending where the keyboard orchestrations soar. The unresolved final minor 7th chord is breathtaking in effect.

"Seasons" is a lovely ballad, I myself would consider covering, as it has all the elements of a man who has weathered countless storms and has remained a living legend. I'm very sorry that Mr. Jenkins does not seem to appreciate the fact that to see an artist of such caliber playing at a night club, is in and of itself, a major event.

Mr. Jenkins goes on in his review to state that Mr. Jones is not an "artiste".

I beg to differ, though I cannot speculate as to why any writer for the Post would make such an insulting statement. I would only ask rhetorically who in Mr. Jenkins' opinion is an "artiste"?

I would not be suprised in the least were I to view his list of "significants" as garbage, as much of the current musical era is, in my opinion, sadly lacking of talent. But I assure you, were I reviewing a show, I would find something nice to say about most anyone, unless it were a total uncaring travesty, which this show most certainly was not.

Mr Jenkins' comment about not allowing the band to "stretch out" puzzles me, because how were they supposed to "stretch out" that material given the fast pace of the show.

Yes, 25 songs in just over an hour and a half. What does this mean? It means :

1. The audience was spared much of the lengthy meanderings between songs at such "vererable" clubs, which is too often the norm in generation X fathomed bands.

2. When a world class singer is the star and it's "his show", the band is hired help and is not there to stretch out anything. Why did Mr. Jenkins not comment about when Mr. Jones' three backup singers, along with keyboards which finally could be heard, became an appassioniata within the song. The tempo stopped while the gates of heaven opened up. How did the reviewer not hear this? It was, I suppose in "amateurish colloquialism" a "stretch out"?

Mr Jenkins also draws an innuendo comparing Mr. Jones appearing in the leading rock nightclub of DC vs the inferred norm of a "supperclub".

And the Post actually pays this person a salary to write like this?

I would submit to the music editor that it's time to trade up.

Posted by: chuckwagner | February 26, 2009 6:17 PM

Er, Stereophonics hardly qualify as "young hitmakers" anymore - they've just put out their own 10 year greatest hits retrospective. Please consult Google for another, more contemporary Welsh band when reconstituting this review for the next Tom Jones show.

Posted by: hannnah | February 26, 2009 8:39 PM

I tend to agree with the commenters above. Loved the show and thought it was a rare glimpse at a world-class singer and entertainer in a relatively intimate club setting. I thought the setlist was well-balanced and some of the songs off the new album such as "Give a Little Love" sounded better live than they did on the album.

From what I could tell the crowd seemed to be enjoying it too and there was a consistent hail of bras and panties all night.

Posted by: Bauschz | February 27, 2009 1:27 AM

I was there and after 4 times of seeing Sir Tom, he has not lost a beat. granted, he has grown more mature in age since my teen years but the man is still on top of his game.
Mr. Jenkins review of such an icon was moronic. A legend cannot and should not be compared to todays genre of music. I thoroughly enjoyed the show in the intimacy of the 9:30 club and hope that Tom will visit again soon. He rocks in my world!
Detdra

Posted by: DFulwood | February 27, 2009 11:50 AM

I didn't attend this show but have attended many tj shows over the years. (Five and counting and I just turned 40). I take this review with a giant grain of salt considering my experience at other shows and the fact that the reviewer hasn't done a grain of research on the appeal of tom jones. He doesn't know that Tom Jones is OLDER than Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney and the audience he appealed to and continues to appeal to has been different than that of the other two performers. His voice is too sultry for the rock. He appreciate him just as he is. Long live TJ!

Posted by: rjaye212 | March 3, 2009 11:49 AM

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