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Review: Tom Jones at Granada Theater

Posted 12:58pm on Sunday, May. 04, 2014

Tom Jones may have been singing about his age, but he wasn’t feeling it.

“I ache in the places where I used to play,” he purred, opening his sold out Saturday night set with Leonard Cohen’s timeless Tower of Song.

It was a sly way for the eternal sex symbol to not only acknowledge the passage of years — Jones turns 74 in June — but to subtly alert the rowdy Granada Theater audience that this performance would not necessarily be one heavy on the hits.

Indeed, Jones was eight songs into his roughly 95-minute showcase before anything resembling a golden oldie (in this case, Delilah) materialized.

Much of the eclectic evening was given over to the work of others: Tom Waits, Odetta, Hank Williams, Lonnie Donegan — all designed to showcase Jones’ matchless skill as an interpreter of others’ material.

But rather than feel dreary and meandering, the set list seemed to energize Jones, who restlessly prowled the stage clad in all black and topped in a navy blazer, capping most tunes with a beaming grin and a gleeful whoop.

However much fun he was having Saturday, Jones seemed more interested in testifying than tantalizing.

The role of roots musician seems an odd fit for the debonair Jones, but he mostly pulled it off with seeming like an artistic tourist, with the bulk of Saturday’s selections culled from Jones’ most recent albums, Spirit in the Room and Praise & Blame.

He didn’t shy away from nostalgia, frequently stopping to marvel at memorabilia clutched by fans at the foot of the stage (and often obliging with an autograph), but he wasn’t bound to crank out all the favorites, either.

(Amusingly, his choices caused some consternation among the people in front of me, who were positive Jones would open with It’s Not Unusual. “Well, why hasn’t he played it already?” one woman huffed, 30 minutes in.)

Backed by a crackling quartet, Jones, whose voice has scarcely aged a day since the Swinging ‘60s and, unlike many of his contemporaries, performed without the aid of a teleprompter, found the richest grooves in the handful of gospel tunes, notably Lord Help, which built up a holy head of steam by its climax. (The night’s biggest irony had to be the expected tossing of ladies’ undergarments onto the stage, but during the full-tilt religious numbers.)

Even the standards weren’t immune to Jones’ fascination with American roots music.

It’s Not Unusual was deftly recast as a Zydeco-flavored confection, replacing the original’s tart brass with a washboard and the enthusiastic backing vocals of a thousand adoring fans.

Never mind that the song was initially released in the Lyndon Johnson administration.

After all, you’re only as young as you feel (sound?). Saturday, the silver-haired Tom Jones often seemed like the biggest, happiest kid in the room.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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