Last night I had a life-changing experience. I attended my very first concert by one Mr. Tom Jones.
Mr. Tom Jones in a shot from his current tour. From TomJones.com.
I know in the past I’ve said the same thing about concerts by other icons like Wayne Newton, Charo, Dolly Parton, Liza Minnelli or other legends whose careers have been around so long and have almost become parodies of themselves that you almost forget the incredible raw talent underneath. But last night’s concert by “Jones the Voice,” as he’s known in his native Wales, was different.
He had the entire audience in the palm of his hand. From TomJones.com.
But before I get into the concert, I thought I’d explain the background. I had wanted to see Tom Jones perform live for more than 12 years. It dates back to the two-year stint when I worked for The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, the organization behind the Grammy Awards.
The night it started was February 20, 1993. I was working the MusiCares gala honoring Natalie Cole at LA's Beverly Hilton hotel. As was typical at these types of things, the audience was filled with various celebrities, some of whom I got to meet. David Crosby is one example. I even got to meet Dr. Ruth Westheimer, if you can believe it.
But it was another guest that put me in total shock and awe: Mr. Tom Jones. I remember saying to my co-worker Heather, “Oh my God, that’s Tom Jones!” I remember her response vividly. She didn’t actually say these words, but she gave me a look that said, “Why on earth are you excited about some cheesy Las Vegas lounge lizard?”
Tom Jones straight killed it in Temecula. From TomJones.com.
I was amazed that she couldn’t understand the significance of Tom Jones. It was almost as if it was 1967 and Elvis had walked into the room. Sure, at the time he would have seemed past his prime. A “has been.” But then came the 1968 comeback special that turned things around for Elvis and jump-started the next phase of his career.
The chance to shake hands with a legend was something I was not about to miss. So I shed any last bit of embarrassment and approached Mr. Jones, who was standing with some executives from the VH1 table.
I don’t know if it was because he’s tall, or if it’s because I’m short, but he seemed enormous to me. I caught his attention and said something lame like “Mr. Jones, I’m a big fan and I just wanted to have a chance to shake your hand.” His giant hand reached out and I grasped it. That’s when I heard a deep voice with a distinctly Welsh accent say to me, “Thank you very much.”
That was pretty much the end of our exchange, but at that moment I said I need to see this guy perform.
His show was definitely off the hook. From TomJones.com
Flash forward 12 years, and I finally had my chance. Every other time he was in town, it just never worked out. So when I saw last month that he was coming to the Pechanga Casino in May, I jumped at the chance. Tim wasn’t into it, so I went with our friends Shane and Rob, who are Tom Jones fanatics.
The first thing I noticed was the incredible enthusiasm in the audience. The show hadn’t even started yet when some of the women up front started waving the lacy underwear they were planning to throw on stage. Pretty soon women all over the audience were cheering them on and waving their underwear too.
And despite what I had anticipated, it wasn’t only older women. In fact, I’d say the majority were only in their 30s or 40s.
Then the lights dimmed and the crowd went wild. The 11-piece band came out and started playing, and the place got even crazier. Then when Mr. Tom Jones stepped out, clad in a simple navy shirt and black pants, the place went nuts … and pretty much stayed that way throughout the night.
Tom Jones seriously rocks. From TomJones.com.
Deeply tanned and sporting a goatee and mustache, the guy looks easily 20 years younger than his actual age of 64. And that’s without that plastic surgery look that usually goes along with other people that have been performing for as long as he has.
I knew he would sing some of his classics, like “Help Yourself,” “What’s New Pussycat,” “Delilah,” “She’s a Lady,” Prince’s “Kiss” and “It’s Not Unusual.” I was also glad to hear him sing one of my favorites from his greatest hit catalog: “Green Grass of Home.” What I wasn’t anticipating was the number of soul and blues he would sing.
The thing I really got out of this concert is that he’s the real deal. His voice is so hella tight, it’s not even funny. And the way he charmed the audience was unreal. At age 64, this mack daddy’s got some serious game. In all, it was an experience I’ll never forget.