Nobody likes a name-dropper, but then if you’d gained a love of gospel music from sitting up nights singing with Elvis, you’d probably mention it too.
Sir Tom Jones’s recollections of hanging out in late-60s/early-70s Vegas with the King – to whom he later pays tribute with a shivering interpretation of Gillian Welch’s Elvis Presley Blues – flow into a gritty blues tangent on the God-fearing traditional Run On. It’s just one musical cocktail among many served on a flawlessly pleasant evening of song and mellow raconteuring from one of the last living embodiments of showbusiness’s salad days.
The Welshman’s valleys-deep voice refuses to waver, much less quit, but at 76 years old, Sir Tom must feel mortality repeatedly tapping him on the shoulder. Lonnie Johnson’s Tomorrow Night is sung in memory of his wife, Melinda, who died earlier this year. Of all the signature hits in his repertoire by veteran writers from through the ages, Jones can scarcely have believed he’d end up dedicating Prince’s Kiss to a “late, great genius”.
Unexpected arrangements by his lean nine-piece band keep fans on their toes, and unfortunate 70s memories of chest hair pouring out of a low-buttoned shirt are agreeably buried. A take on It’s Not Unusual is rather more bossa-nova chilled than Carlton Banks might prefer, alongside a sultry Sex Bomb, and a Mama Told Me Not to Come set to swaying horns, including an eye-catching big white sousaphone. A rock’n’roll/R&B/country/gospel reading of Sister Rosetta Tharp’s Strange Things Happening Every Day ends the show on an expertly judged note of evangelism, fortitude and simple joy in a good old singsong.
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