When we were up north last weekend, we walked past a small-town corner drug store. Flashback.
We didn’t go in, but I stood there on the corner, wishing I could step inside and find baseball cards, comic books, 45 rpm records and/or some candy (and, Janet says, cosmetics suitable for teenage girls who didn’t have much money).
That would have taken us back to 1969, a time when, at 9/8 Central, we watched “This Is Tom Jones” on ABC.
Tom Jones was one of my role models as I was growing up. You gotta learn your way somehow, and he seemed a pretty good guide to a 12-year-old.
I vividly recall watching “This Is Tom Jones” with my grandmother — and probably my aunt and my girl cousins as well — all of whom thought he was great. A wonderful family time long gone.
In 1969, I never imagined I’d someday see Tom Jones live, but in 2003 we did, at the local casino ballroom. Backed by a Vegas-style show band, he was great.
Never thought we’d have the opportunity to see Tom Jones again, but as it turned out, seeing Tom Jones was to be a gift for me this year. (Never mind that I screwed up the plans almost immediately, jumping online to buy the tickets pretty much right after Janet asked me where I wanted to see him.)
Fast forward to Monday night in Indianapolis. Tom Jones is 82 now, a world treasure still in spectacularly full voice. A tremendous show, almost 19 years after our first show, and much better than our first show.
Sir Tom is moving gingerly these days because he’s getting a hip replaced at the end of October. He did the entire show while sitting on a stool, as you see above. “Now I’m hipper than hip,” he said, dropping a dad joke as he opened the show.
That is Tom Jones’ appeal today. He’s seen and done it all, and is still here to sing and tell those stories with considerable style and affection. (BTW, all parties have gracefully aged out of the panty-tossing era. The only fabric flashed Monday night was a Welsh flag unfurled in the front row.)
Sir Tom introduced the third song with a leisurely retelling of the story of how his first No. 1 hit came to be in 1965. The Murat Theatre crowd jumped to its feet when it heard the first few notes of “It’s Not Unusual.”
Likewise the next song, starting with a winding and good-natured retelling of the story of how he initially wasn’t impressed with the song brought to him by Burt Bacharach later that year. “What’s New Pussycat?” became a sing-along, with Sir Tom directing the choir as seen above.
I smiled throughout “Green, Green Grass of Home” because my friends long ago ruined this song for me. We’d play it on the jukebox at the bar and sing along. However, in our version, we smoked the “Green, Green Grass of Home” and added a lewd lyric I won’t repeat here. Alcohol was involved.
For those wondering when the faithful bolt for the bar and the restrooms during a Tom Jones show, his introduction of a Bob Dylan cover — “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)” — does the trick.
Four songs later, and 13 songs into his show, Sir Tom tore into “Delilah.” Chills.
Interestingly, though, that was the last of the four long-ago hits he sang. No “Thunderball,” no “Daughter of Darkness,” no “I (Who Have Nothing),” not even “She’s A Lady,” which someone nearby so wanted to hear.
All good, because the Murat Theatre crowd pretty much lost its shit when Sir Tom strutted into a scorching cover of Prince’s “Kiss.”
Think about that for a minute. We no longer have Prince to perform “Kiss” for us. But we have Tom Jones, who so memorably covered it with Art of Noise in 1988 — a career-redefining moment almost 35 years ago now — still here to perform it for us, and to blow minds in the process.
Upon finishing, Sir Tom confessed to the wrought-out crowd that had he been better able to walk off stage, that would be when they’d take a break and return for an encore. So they just segued into the encore, starting with a lovely valedictory number, “One Hell of a Life” by Welsh songwriter Katell Keineg.
Then Sir Tom took us home to church. The Church of Rock N’ Roll.
Never thought I’d hear a better live version of “Strange Things Happening Every Day” than fellow baritone Sleepy LaBeef — and I saw him several times — but Tom Jones is still here to sing it for us and blow minds, and Sleepy LaBeef is not.
Our evening with Sir Tom ended with old friends, more or less a medley covering Chuck Berry (Sir Tom and Elvis went to see him in Vegas) and Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, both of whom memorably guested on “This Is Tom Jones” in … you know it … 1969.
Tom Jones’ setlist at the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022: “I’m Growing Old,” “It’s Not Dark Yet,” “It’s Not Unusual,” “What’s New Pussycat?,” “The Windmills of Your Mind,” “Sex Bomb,” “Popstar,” “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below),” “Talking Reality Television Blues,” “I Won’t Crumble With You If You Fall,” “Tower of Song,” “Delilah,” “Lazarus Man,” “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” “If I Only Knew,” “Kiss,” “One Hell of a Life,” “Strange Things Happening Every Day,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Great Balls of Fire.”