Early in his set Monday night, Tom Jones complained that the sound in his monitors was “wooly.”
For the first hour of his nearly two-hour performance at Atlanta Symphony Hall, the renowned Welsh-man expressed continued irritation that he couldn’t hear himself.
It’s unfortunate that Jones couldn’t feel settled behind his microphone because from the audience’s side, he sounded magnificent.
In a recent interview with the AJC, the man known as catnip to his legions of female admirers reiterated how his musical interests have, for many years now, expanded beyond the pop standards that made him an icon and lie in more traditional forms of music, such as gospel and blues.
During his Monday show – one of only a handful he’s doing in the U.S. the next few weeks – Jones and his taut four-piece band see-sawed from rockabilly blues (“Strange Things”) to melancholy lullabies (“Dimming of the Day”) to the beautiful amalgamation of country, gospel and soul on Billy Joe Shaver’s “If I Give My Soul.”
Through them all, Jones’ voice was warm and robust, with just a hint of grit adding shading and character.
While this show in no way resembled the glossy rock-oriented hits parades of his legendary casino runs, Jones didn’t completely abandon the engaging sing-alongs that helped build his career as a heartthrob.
Indeed, at the slightest twitch of his hips, the large contingent of women in the nearly sold-out crowd turned on the shrieks. It didn’t matter that Jones recast the swaying “Delilah” as a slightly dark, slinky song – these ladies were intent on enjoying their Jones classic (and he obliged with a massively held note at song’s end).
As the show unfolded, Jones, who turns 74 in June, became more chatty and animated. He shared an amusing story of Elvis Presley singing to him in the shower at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and expressed his appreciation of Symphony Hall (“This is a beautiful place you’ve got here,” he noted).
He also turned cheeky when telling the audience: “People say to me, is show biz hard work? I haven’t worked since 1962 when (I used to) carry bricks…compared to carrying bricks, it’s a piece of cake – but only when the sound is right.”
Jones revisited his 2010 album, “Praise & Blame” with the traditional folk song, “Run On,” which he sprinkled with gospel and dedicated to Presley and regaled fans with the still-beautiful “Green, Green Grass of Home,” featuring lightly picked guitar and delicate upright bass.
With plenty of familiar songs still left to play, Jones didn’t disappoint during an encore that included “It’s Not Unusual” – with an accordion and shaker replacing the song’s sprightly horns – and his beloved cover of Prince’s “Kiss,” this time fitted with a rustic groove and cool lounge vibe.
Throughout a nearly 50-year career, Jones has been many things – a pop crooner, a tight-trousered hunk, a Vegas staple and a legitimate song interpreter.
Through them all, he’s always provided that incomparable voice and a wealth of authenticity.