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This Time, It Was Unusual

May 20th, 2013

Tom Jones – The Bowery Ballroom – May 18, 2013


Tom Jones dominated the charts in the ’60s and ’70s with megahits like “It’s Not Unusual,” “Delilah,” and “What’s New Pussycat?” But you may also know him from his covers of Prince and Talking Heads, or from James Bond, or even from the Carlton dance on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Now, though, take everything you know about Tom Jones and throw it out the window. He just released a new album, Spirit in the Room, that, at the age of 72, completely transforms the singer. It’s the second album Jones has made with producer Ethan Johns, and it’s stunning. Like their first highly acclaimed collaboration, Praise & Blame, it puts Jones in a minimal setting. Forget the ass-shaking, panties-throwing go-go music of yesteryear—this is Jones, stripped down and personal.

But that’s not to say that Jones stopped being himself: He put on a phenomenal show at—of all places—The Bowery Ballroom on Saturday night. If you were lucky enough to snatch a ticket to the sold-out show, you could hear him in top form. His voice still booms across the room, he still swings his hips onstage and he still screams like James Brown when the moment calls for it. But he played not one of his hits, and it didn’t matter. He’s still got it. Jones opened with Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song,” singing softly to an enraptured crowd: “Well my friends are gone/ And my hair is gray/ I ache in the places where I used to play.” The song served as a sober reflection on his life and career, which, after 50 years, is still going strong. And Jones is enjoying it. “It’s Saturday night, isn’t it?” he asked. “Sometimes I can’t even remember if it’s Saturday night or not. Every night is Saturday night for me. Every day is Christmas Day.” —Alex Kapelman

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com