TCN’s Dave Gasson gives us a closer look at the Welsh heart-throb’s concert in Pula.
On one of the hottest days of the year in Pula, with temperatures rising up to 38 degrees, Sir Tom Jones, OBE, kept his cool and delighted his audience. The legendary Welsh singer made a welcome return to Pula as part of his European tour, having last played here in 2012. The dynamic 60s and 70s heartthrob offered a showcase of over five decades of music and top ten hits to the sell-out Pula crowd of 8,000, with hundreds more people outside lining the periphery of the arena.
It is clear that the popularity of Tom Jones remains undiminished and with his bluesy, full throated, robust, baritone voice, it’s easy to see and hear why the Welsh singer from Pontypridd is so popular with what was a very diverse and mixed crowd.
Throughout the concert, he delighted the audience with many hits from his vast repertoire. Once described by the New York Times as a musical “shape shifter”, Sir Tom Jones emphasised this by performing the full spectrum of his musical talents. In the last six years, he has produced three of his finest albums; “Praise and Blame” “Spirit in the Room” and “Long Lost Suitcase”. On these albums, he strays slightly from the pop music and instead offers us a more Bluesy, R&B, gospel and folk style but his husky voice is ever present. Naturally, when he sang tracks from those albums, the crowd loved it.
The multi award winning Welshman, with over 100 million records sold and with 36 top UK hits did not let the crowd down and sang many of his classics.
“Delilah” was played with an excellent heavy guitar intro with the distinctive harmonica playing in the background and the crowd passionately joining in with the chorus, before he went straight into the very bluesy track “St. James Infirmary Blues” backed by both sax and trombone, as the trumpet solo by Henry Collins concludes the song, Tom takes a step back and has a welcome and much needed drink before introducing some of the band including “Clever Trevor on slide trombone”.
“Soul of a Man” taken from the ”Spirit in the Room” album saw the stage illuminated in yellow. The gospel/blues cover of the Blind Willie Johnson track from 1930 is played with passion with the walls of the Roman Amphitheatre reverberating to Tom’s voice backed by the meaty guitar and heavy drum beat. With his arms stretched wide, Tom Jones takes his bow with a “Yeah, thank you”. ”The Tower of Song” originally by Leonard Cohen took on a new and poignant meaning:
“I was born like this, I had no choice
I was born with the gift of a golden voice
And twenty-seven angels from the great beyond
They tied me to this table right here
In the tower of song”
With the stage lit in a very simple plain blue light, Tom’s version of the sombre track with the line “this table” replaced with “this stage” showed that he really has been gifted with a golden voice and it received a
huge round of applause. He thanked the crowd and then went straight into a few of his lively and bouncy classics including “Green Green Grass Of Home” which was sung with the stage, fittingly, awash in green.
After a quick “Oh yeah, oh yeah” at the end, it was straight in to the classic “It’s Not Unusual” followed by the cover version of Randy Newman’s classic ”Leave Your Hat On” during which Tom teased the crowd and eventually symbolically took off his jacket. The song ended with the stage fully lit and with strobe lights bouncing on the crowd.
Sir Tom Jones then invited the crowd down from their seats and to the front of the stage to dance “Right now the powers that be is me so hey, c’mon down, whole lotta shaking goin’ on, c’mon”
With the front of the stage area quickly filled and bathed in red light he continued with “We would like to dedicate this song to the late great Prince” and soon nearly every one, including those at the back and sides of the arena were dancing or swaying to the song “Kiss”. “Things Happen Everyday” was introduced as a pop, rock, R&B, show tune, country, dance, soul and gospel song “with a little boogie woogie on the side”.
The Chicago blues classic “I Wish You Would”, first recorded by Billy Boy Arnold, had some tremendous harmonica and guitar playing, and Scott McKeon was introduced as the guitar man. Sir Tom Jones held the last notes of the song perfectly for a good 10 seconds and then took a bow, waved and exited the stage.
With the audience clapping, whistling and cheering the band were introduced and after a special dedication to his drummer friend and musical director Gary Wallis, who appeared previously with with Pink Floyd, 10cc and John Michel Jarre among others, he turned to the crowd and said “Now then, ladies and gentlemen, and this is the truth, you have been a fantastic audience tonight and we all have had a ball up here and hope you have too, so until we see you all again, goodnight and God bless you all!”
Upcoming concerts in Pula arena include Zucchero with special guest star ”Sporty Spice”, tickets details can be found by clicking here.
Then it’s festival time once again with Grace Jones performing at the opening night of The Dimensions Festival on the 30th of August, followed by Dizzee Rascal opening The Outlook Festival on the 6th of September, 2017.
All images: Copyright Dave Gasson. Not for reuse.