In a career that spans six decades, tonight was a first for Sir Tom Jones in more than one way. It is the first date of his In Conversation with Sir Tom Jones tour, and it is also the first time that he has split a tour night in half to talk about his career as well as perform some of his favourite songs; or as Sir Tom explains it “I like to talk and I like to sing, but I’ve never done both together before.” Lastly, it is the first time that 75-year old Sir Tom has performed in the Symphony Hall in Birmingham and seemed more than impressed with the venue as he told Radio 6’s Matt Everitt (the host for the night), “This is a beautiful place. I have to play more of these places. This is a place that feels like it was built for music.”
In the first half of the night, host Matt Everitt quizzed Sir Tom about his extraordinary life and career to promote his autobiography Over The Top and Back. This proved a fascinating hour long insight for any fan as they skimmed over his life; from his upbringing in Wales and childhood battle with tuberculosis, to his days as a cheeky twenty-something when he joined bands, pushed boundaries and worked as a door to door vacuum salesman, to his successful career and friendship with certain familiar names; in particular, Elvis Presley. In fact, it was so fascinating that I could of quite happily have sat there listening to the stories all evening (so the autobiography will make for some interesting reading!)
The second half of the night was also roughly an hour in length, and this was where the magic happened as Sir Tom performed a largely blues and bluegrass inspired selection of songs that are particularly important to him; many from latest album Long Lost Suitcase. Opening with perhaps his most famous song; It’s Not Unusual, he was accompanied on stage by his fabulously talented seven-piece touring band and they soon had everyone bogeying in their seats. Sir Tom put on a powerful and energetic performance as he blasted his way through livelier tracks such as Take My Love (I Want To Give It), Burning Hell and I Wish You Would; and the room erupted in many over-enthusiastic cheers from ladies during the performance of his 80’s comeback single Kiss. There were also several tear-jerking moments during the evening as Sir Tom performed heartfelt renditions of Elvis Presley Blues, dedicated to his friend Elvis Presley, and He Was A Friend Of Mine; which he dedicated to his late bodyguard.
Sir Tom closed the night with two particularly fitting songs, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song; followed by a cover of gospel track Strange Things; the latter of which had everyone dancing in the aisles. Sir Tom Jones may well be 75-years old, but there is certainly still a hell of a lot more ambition, drive and life left in the old dog yet as he told the audience; “I still feel great. I’m going for 100. Nothing’s going to stop me.”