Fewer thongs, more songs

Picture: Darragh Kane
Picture: Darragh Kane

Chilled and relaxed, Tom Jones seems to be liberated by his still relatively new status as a grand old man of gospel and blues, a legend whose voice has aged magnificently, with even more gravel to match his growing gravitas.

Gone is the avalanche of ladies’ undergarments, well mostly; a fan did run up and drop a gift on the stage, but Tom just said: “Leave it there, love, I’ll get to it in a minute.”

While he hasn’t discarded all of his old cabaret charm — there’s a bit of banter about Cork’s fine weather reminding him of Wales — but he has fairly seamlessly added a bank of more reflective, deeper material to his party fare.

Out with the thongs, in with the songs. Freed of the burden of being a sex icon, he now has a cheeky, ironic grin when he belts out a swing version of his monster 1999 hit Sex Bomb to a packed and enthralled Marquee audience. It is the standout classic hit in the first half-hour or so of an epic set.

Tom is a legend. He has earned the right to roll out his chosen newer material for the first hour. Some of the “new” songs (like the Animals’ Mama Told Me Not To Come, and Hank Williams’ Why Don’t You Love Me?) go back a bit, but are new to Tom; others are just new, like his cover of Tom Waits’ 2011 song Bad As Me — for me, a personal favourite on the night.

The voice is still as powerful as ever. It must be said too that, at 74, Tom looks better than ever; dare we say it, the Welsh Sean Connery. About 40 minutes in, he rolls out rocking re-workings of his 1960s classics Delilah and I’ll Never Love Again. When he returns to his hits for the closing hour, it is to a euphoric response.

Meantime, the core four-piece must be Tom’s best ever backing band, and the reason he’s still living the dream. He raises the roof with his cover of Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song, but only after the audience sings Happy Birthday — he turned 74 on June 7 he tells us. Then all the classic hits to close. Choose your own favourites; he sang them all; and yes, resistance was futile.

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