- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2003

It wasn’t until he sang a techno-y near-ballad version of Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight” that the panties really started sailing toward Tom Jones, about midway through his 90-minute steamer at the Lisner Auditorium Tuesday night.

He waited even longer — for the naughty “What’s New Pussycat?” — before doing his patented panty face wipedown.

By the time of “It’s Not Unusual,” Mr. Jones was being flashed.

Such pacing may seem like a calculated way to tease middle-aged women in heat. But Tom Jones, the Welsh heartthrob singer, was transparently reluctant to overindulge his sex-machine antics Tuesday, the first show of a sold-out two-night stand at Lisner.

Sure, he hip-thrust, knee-twisted and rump-shook to frenzied cheers. At a virile 63, he can still outfox any male stripper.

Yet to anyone who dared doubt his nonerotic talents, Mr. Jones was clear: He was there to entertain — from the neck up.

Wrapping his big baritone around songs such as Ben E. King’s “I (Who Have Nothing),” “Never Gonna Love Again” and “Heaven’s Been a Long Time Coming,” a recent collaboration with Wycleaf Jean, Mr. Jones proved that not only can he still carry a tune, he can haul it up a mountain and then twirl it on his finger when he reaches the top. He’s no Placido Domingo, but he’s capable of hitting beefy vibrato notes that wouldn’t sound out of place in an opera.

Mr. Jones is touring to support an interesting compilation CD that transplants some of his trendy Europe-only material of the past few years for American audiences.

On Tuesday, some of the newer nuggets, including the goofy opener “Tom Jones International,” were lost on an audience not attuned to modern Euro-disco. Even the infectious “Sexbomb” went over with a whimper.

“Reloaded: Greatest Hits,” as the disc is called, also includes a cover of Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me (Not to Come).” Luckily for that song, fans were very familiar with the Three Dog Night cover version and warmed to the new Jones rendition. His second Newman number of the evening, a radioactive “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” reduced his throng of female admirers to quivering blobs of protoplasm.

Introducing a pair of tunes dedicated to his coal-miner father, “Working in the Coal Mine” and the company-store standard “Sixteen Tons,” Mr. Jones proudly announced, “I haven’t worked since 1962.”

Two observations:

One, Mr. Jones’ working-class roots are as good an explanation as any why a Welshman’s voice can so richly evoke black American blues and gospel. (I, for one, was surprised at how good he sounded in the recent PBS “Blues” series.) His unfeigned love for American R&B; and soul music was unmistakable Tuesday night — whether in his confident cover of Tommy Tucker’s bouncing genre staple “Hi-Heel Sneakers” or in quoting his “very good friend” Solomon Burke on how to please the ladies.

Second, Tom Jones has been around since 1962. Forty-one years, and he’s still getting flashed.

The female libido is, it seems, a durable thing. Which makes this Tom Jones fan, not yet 30, very happy indeed.

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