Saturday Night: Tom Jones at The Fillmore Gleason

Categories: Concert Review
John Hood
Tom Jones performs at the Fillmore Miami Beach Saturday night.
Tom Jones
Saturday, April 25, 2009
The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater

Better Than: A time-capsule set to 1971

Of all the many remarkable things to be said about seeing Tom Jones stage these days -- and trust me, there are many remarkable things to be said -- perhaps the single most remarkable thing is how seamlessly the songs from his latest longplayer -- 24 Hours -- fit in with his collection of hits. In fact, many of the tracks seem to come from the very same peachy-keen playbook as his classics. And the best of them could easily have become hits of their own.

Naturally, last night's show opener would've worked as well then as it does now. After all, it's Tommy James and the Shondells' "I'm Alive," the B-Side to '69's "Crystal Blue Persuasion," which makes it straight from Jones's prime. But so would've the Bacharachian "If He Should Ever Leave You," the bossa-tinged "In Style and Rhythm" and the swinging "Give a Little Love," and Jones co-wrote all three relatively recently.

So too the slower numbers pulled from 24 Hours -- "The Road" and "Seasons" -- both of which Jones also co-wrote. The former, a love song for Linda, his wife of 51 years, is a soaring homage soaked in devotion and rendered with a classicist's pen; the latter's an almost hymn-like paean to a life lived to full and blessed ends. And each revealed a side to the troubadour previously gleaned only through his many interpretations.

And though Jones did pepper his set with whole handfuls of his newer offerings, there was no shortage of those stellar interpretations. Randy Newman's raucous "Leave Your Hat On," Bill Withers' withering "Grandma's Hands," Bacharach and David's torching "I'll Never Fall in Love Again, "Bart Howard's sky-high "Fly Me to the Moon" and Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's devilish "That Old Black Magic," in no particular order, all came stunningly alive, and all became better for Sir Tom's trademark belting.

But as good as were each of the above, it was for the hits that the sold-out crowd of mostly women had come, and it was the hits that Jones delivered, with the panache of a man born to perform.

And, thankfully, aside from a little heavier edge to "Delilah," Sir Tom delivered his signature songs relatively straight for the man-chasers. And why wouldn't he? When something's already perfect, there's no need for tweaking. So "She's a Lady" was embellished only by Sir Tom's swiveling version of the Duck Walk; "What's New Pussycat?" had but a slightly more animated man at hand, and "Green Green Grass of Home" lacked everything other than its essential beauty.

After the kitschy, disco-hustle of "Sex Bomb," Sir Tom went out with the bang of "It's Not Unusual" and there wasn't voice in the room that didn't sing along. That a sixty-eight year-old cat could make a forty-four year-old track crackle with such fiery cool may be even more remarkable than anything else I've mentioned. Then again, when it's Tom Jones you're talkin' about; remarks are always gonna come in abundance.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: My mother was -- and is -- a huge fan of the man, so his hits are indelibly etched into my thick head.

Random Detail: Sir Tom sported a glittering gold pinkie ring -- on each hand!

By the Way: I do have one beef. That Jones didn't preface his encore versions of The Shocking Blue's "Venus" and Prince's "Kiss" with the title track to 24 Hours. Anyone who read last week's preview knows it's my favorite song on the LP.

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