Belfast Telegraph

Review: Ladies still in thrall to Voice lothario Tom Jones

Waterfront Hall

By Michael Conaghan

Sir Tom Jones is currently as famous as he's ever been, with an already stratospheric profile made sky high by his involvement in the BBC talent show The Voice.

It's a happy outcome for an artist who was once in danger of being consigned to a Las Vegas limbo but, through an astute mixture of clever collaborations and an incomparable vocal talent, successfully reinvented himself in the Eighties and Nineties.

Nonetheless, on the understanding that knicker outlets have been doing a roaring trade recently, a largely female audience was definitely here for the cheese.

But Tom in dapper smoking jacket opened with tasteful versions of John Lee Hooker's Burning Hell and Randy Newman's Mama Told Me. And we were suddenly in that part of the valleys that is forever the deep south. His backing group had a pleasing bar band looseness, with Lonny Johnson's Tomorrow Night from Tom's forthcoming album revealing his affinity for waltz time country music.

His ease with American roots material - exemplified best of all perhaps, by a heartfelt reading of Gillian Welch's song about his old Las Vegas cellmate, Elvis Presley Blues - initially seemed at odds with the kind of schlock with which he made his name.

But don't knock it, Sex Bomb brought the first pair of knickers flying onto the stage and the audience to its feet. Delilah was bloodily despatched once more, with a pleasing spaghetti western arrangement.

But the stuff he does these days is just that much better. He now can officially claim ownership of Leonard Cohen's Tower of Song - "I was born with the gift of a golden voice" - and though It's Not Unusual's bumptious awfulness still engages, it was considerably aided here by a clever French accordion reinvention.

They say if you live long enough, you watch the bodies of your enemies come floating past you on the river. One senses that at 75, Sir Tom has now become the singer he always wanted to be.

Four stars

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