It shouldn’t be surprising that Sir Tom Jones was on top form in Tel Aviv on Saturday night. After all, it’s not unusual (sorry!) for him to deliver an outstanding performance on stage, a place he so clearly loves.
The Welsh wizard pulled off a virtuoso performance to a packed house at the Nokia Stadium, masterfully whipping through his greatest hits, and throwing in some lesser known yet equally impressive tunes for good measure.
Unlike fellow pop veteran Cliff Richards over the summer, Jones kept the dancing to a minimum, likely knowing what the people had really come for.
Granted, he did grace the audience with a few hip swivels during “It’s Not Unusual”, the jacket did come off during “You Can Keep Your Hat On”, and he did mimic the knife murder at the center of “Delilah”. But the simple dark jacket, turtle neck and pants, and low-key visuals kept the focus on the true reason for thousands of people to pay hundreds of shekels – that soaring, hushed, rocking, soulful, operatic voice filling the auditorium as easily and as beautifully as it would a small room filled with friends.
The singer smoothly transitioned from a cover of Leonard Cohen’s haunting Tower of Song (the line “I was born with the gift of a golden voice” earned him a round of mid-song applause by an audience who knew a truism when they saw one) to the all-out pop of “Mama Told Me Not To Come”, “Sex Bomb” and show-closer “Kiss”. His performance of “Never Gonna Fall In Love Again”, was performed so powerfully, with such intensity, that only the sweeping vocals and emotion of “Green, Green Grass of Home” could top it.
Jones spent a fair bit of time bantering with the audience, promising his fans after the first number that they were in for “a great night”. A little later, he recalled his last visit to Tel Aviv, lamenting the transition from a head of black hair to the silver fox he is today. His hair may have changed color with the years, but those goose bump-inducing vocals are still very much intact.
He also judged his audience extremely well, throwing in a truly moving version of the classic “My Yiddishe Mama”, and recounting how he learned it from his father. I would be surprised if there was a dry eye in the house.
The standing ovation that Jones was awarded at the end of the show was more than deserved. The concert might have only lasted as long as Rihanna’s last Tuesday (my only real gripe), but this 73-year-old grandpa taught the R&B prima donna the secret to a long and successful career – get on stage and sing your heart out.
So if you’re in Tel Aviv on Monday, and get the chance, a night in the company of Tom Jones is certainly worth every shekel.