Tom Jones doesn’t need to make albums anymore, but he still has a thirst, a need and a desire to create and perform for his fans. Despite being in his eighties, the legendary Welsh crooner is showing no signs of slowing down, as he spends this summer skirting around the UK playing huge outdoor shows before he hits arenas this winter.
However, on Tuesday night, Jones wheeled back the decades and played for just 400 people at The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. When you combine one of the best venues in Britain — a rite of passage for every true artist — and one of the most exquisite voices this nation has ever produced, it makes for a cocktail that goes down the throat almost too smoothly. Intoxicating and incandescent in equal measure.
As soon as you enter the building, the venue’s rich history fills up your lungs, and after settling down with a cold pint of Erdinger to wash down the house pie, it’s showtime.
The evening was an album launch event for his number one record, Surrounded By Time, and ran differently from a standard concert. For a start, there was no support act, and Jones was on-stage for just shy of the hour-mark, which bemused some who expected the same show as they’d pay £50 to watch in an arena for the price of a CD. Proof if you ever needed it that you’ll never please them all.
Jones swaggers on shortly after 8:00pm to a rousing reception from the crowd, with everybody in the venue able to see the white’s in his eyes and vice versa. It was a stage that allowed for that most beautiful of musical elements: connection.
Seeing a talent of this magnitude in a venue like the Brudenell is a match made in heaven, especially when he breaks out into a glorious rendition of ‘It’s Not Unusual’ moments after making his way to the stage. Everybody sings along, and there’s a sense of ecstasy ripples through the Leeds venue.
Following the magnetic start to proceedings, Jones takes time to reminisce about playing in working men’s clubs across South Wales and wryly asks the crowd if we’ve accidentally travelled back to 1965.
The singer holds fond memories of those days he spent at the bottom of the ladder. Later on, Jones blissfully reminisces about a club he used to work at in Pontypridd, where he was offered the chance to be paid in cash or drink. He opted for the latter, and after two months, the landlady asked him if he’d mind changing his payment method, which made the room erupt with laughter.
As it was an album launch show, Jones’ set primarily consisted of tracks from Surrounded By Time. His heartfelt re-imagining of Bob Dylan’s ‘One More Cup Of Coffee’ marked a poignant moment in the set, and ‘Talking Reality Television Blues’ was utterly mesmerising.
In truth, Jones could have sung anything, and it would have been biblical. Somehow, his voice has remained in excellent condition, which defies humanity, and if I’m in any shape similar to him at 81, then I’m willing to do whatever it takes. He litters the set with anecdotes throughout the gig and has the Leeds crowd eating out of his hands as he recalls hanging around with Cat Stevens to the tune of 400 people hanging on his every word.
The evening ended with a euphoric, roof-raising performance of ‘Strange Things Happen Everyday’, which Jones released in 2010. His take on Rosetta Thorpe’s traditional blues number from 1944 proved to be a colossal way to end a night to remember.
From the moment he walked on stage, it was clear that what was about to go down would be extraordinary, yet, Jones’ charismatic verve and iconic veloured voice made it an experience that managed to exceed even sky-high expectations.
Tickets for Tom Jones’ tour are available here.