Monday 24 October 2016

Review: Old showman goes back to his roorts

Music, Tom Jones, Olympia, Dublin

Published 19/06/2015 | 02:30

Tom Jones at Dublin's Olympia
Tom Jones at Dublin's Olympia

Incredibly Tom Jones is now 75. Septuagenarian-hood agrees with the big-lunged Welshman, who, returning to Dublin, sported a tasteful grey beard and crooned and bawled in the fashion of a bluesman who had seen it all and somehow was still around to tell the tale.

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He was also a surprisingly emotive raconteur, sharing an anecdote about a lost afternoon pub-crawling with Irish singer Jim Hand and repeating 'Slainte' so often it started to feel as if the word meant more to him than to the audience.

In acknowledgment of his status as elder statesman, the Voice UK judge has stepped away from the gauche, glittery sensibilities of his 90s comeback period, when he occupied an ambivalent territory between heritage act and novelty performer.

Rather, he came to Ireland in the guise of rafter-raising Methuselah, his delivery husky, ragged, radiating autumnal wisdom (in later years he has worked extensively with folk producer Ethan Johns, who has emphasised the gruff wisdom of Jones's vocals).

That he was able to re-purpose his naff staple Sex Bomb as the sort of Mississippi Delta dirge Lead Belly might have knocked out 70 years was testament to the reach of his voice, while blues staples such as Randy Newman's Mama Told Me Not To Come and John Lee Hooker's Burning Hell were steeped in passion and mournfulness.

If the concert was about anything it was Jones reconnecting with his roots - the spiritual music he grew up on in rural Wales through 40s and 50s.

Enough of a trouper to tickle the room with the occasional crowd-pleaser, the performance nonetheless felt like a rebranding exercise with half a glance towards posterity.

Throughout Jones was keen to demonstrate that, alongside his formidable abilities as an entertainer, he's a channeler of powerful feelings - more artist than showman. On that count, the evening was a triumph.

Irish Independent

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