Tom Jones’s House of Blues concert was a more stripped-down affair than his typical shows. It was billed as a blues show, but people expecting Jones to wail away on Chicago blues classics like “Sweet Home Chicago” were bound to be surprised.
The backup band focused more on providing rhythmic accompaniment. For most of the show, the 73-year-old Jones’s big burly baritone was the only instrument. This worked very well on the opening number, Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song,” which was propelled by light brushwork on the drums, standup bass, and steady acoustic guitar strumming.
In earlier days Jones used to bump and grind his way up and down a stage. For this show, he stood in the center of the stage on a square carpet and just sang. It worked.
For the most part, so did the sparse instrumentation. However, it got repetitious at certain points of the show, though livened up by the addition of an organ or an accordion. The concept seemed to be a labor of love for the singer, who only interacted with the audience a few times. However, his focus on singing a variety of blues, gospel, and country-influenced songs gave the impression that this is the way he loves to sing when he’s with family or friends.
Despite the emphasis of American music, Jones didn’t leave fans of his pop songs disappointed, reinventing crowd-pleasing classics such as “It’s Not Unusual” and “Delilah” to good effect. “It’s Not Unusual” had a stripped down bossa nova arrangement that could have worked on Paul Simon’s Graceland album, while the twangy guitar and tribal rhythms added to “Delilah” gave it a delightful Adam Ant touch.
The spare instrumental set-up worked really well on the country weeper “Green Green Grass of Home,” while “Thunderball” was updated to the 1980s with an Art of Noise arrangement. Jones’s remake of Prince’s “Kiss” was the hit most closely related to his original recording. Surprisingly, Jones didn’t do his standard “She’s a Lady,” even though that’s one of the bluesier songs in his canon.
I enjoyed the show very much, but the only fair way to judge a Tom Jones concert is by how many panties were tossed at the stage. I counted at least two dozen, one hitting a tall man at the front of the stage. A few lonely panties were left on the House of Blues floor at concert’s end. For a guy who’s 74 and still in fine voice, that seems like a good ratio, indeed.
- Concert: Tom Jones
- Venue: House of Blues
- Date: May 8
- Seating: General