There was a kind of miracle at Kingsholm, Gloucester last night. The rugby ground, scene of many hard and sometimes-bloody clashes between England and Wales, morphed into joyous chunk of Wales.
As 11,000 or so jubilant people poured out of the floodlit rugby ground into the summer night, the police had closed the road outside so the crowd could possess the highway and pavements to make their way home after a truly memorable epic evening. Being in the midst of it all with some waving Welsh flags, some wearing them, a couple bearing blow-up daffs, reminded me of the Millennium Stadium Cardiff on match day after a home win.
The Gloucester Cherry and Whites who played their hearts out against Newport or Cardiff or Neath or Llanelli on the pitch years ago would have considered this Welsh invasion a kind of sacrilege. So would the Welsh-hating crowd and the vociferous, witty earthy-tongued population of Gloucester’s famous Shed.
But the traditional emnity between Gloucester and the Welsh rugby clubs which provided such full-on bruising sport for the Saturday kingsholm crowds was consigned to memory last night.
The Shed was deserted – merely the backdrop for a stage erected specifically for the knighted boy from Ponty who’s become deputy patron saint of Wales to strut his stuff.
Sir Tom, stood slim and tall on stage with a Llanwern-steel-grey frizz of hair trimmed like a halo, the silver moustache and beard adding to the spectacular and somewhat unbelievable image of a fit, tanned man in his early seventies totally rocking the house.
This was unlike any other gig I’d ever been to. We were in the presence of The Alpha Male of Wales, a man who has been a hit artist since 1965, yet is still by some blessed miracle, at the top of his game with a voice mature, strong, and still irresistibly sexy.
To put this in context for those of you who think “Tom Jones? Oh him. Yes. Been around for a while. Had his ups and downs” I should perhaps explain…
My nan bought the Green Green Grass of Home and played it on the record-player in the front room of her house in Abercarn that her youngest son made from scratch (geddit?). She would sing along in her quavery soprano while doing the housework in her nylon pink-checked housecoat.
My mum bought It’s Not Unusual and loved Tom from the moment he burst on to her black and white TV screen in 1965 with his valley-boy good looks, his “lock up your daughters” provocative hip-swivelling and unmistakeably larger-than-average male attribute. In my opinion he definitely dressed to the right last night. The men around me dismissed it as “probably a pair of socks.” Blatant penis envy.
I’d never seen him live but I loved his Reload album, recorded duets and sing-alongs with established bands like Manic Street Preachers and Stereophonics. Mama Told Me Not to Come, which he recorded with the Stereophonics, was on the list last night – one of my favourites.
So I was representing three generations of my family who loved his singing. Not surprising, really as he’s had 36 Top 40 hits since the mid-sixties.
As you’d expect really, the guys in the audience kept it together, standing in a largely undemonstrative way save a bit of low-level bobbing – that was all except the comical little guy in a tweed cap that climbed on a mate’s shoulders and was cavorting and throwing his arms about like a nymphette at Glastonbury.
The women were dancing, singing and generally worshipping Sir Tom in the only way they know while keeping their undies on.
There were scores of big knickers being waved in the air last night – some of them with Sex Bomb or “We love you Tom” written on them. A fair few got thrown too especially during his first hit “It’s Not Unusual” but Sir T has made it known that he’s had enough second-hand undies to last him a lifetime (paraphrasing, there).
He introduced one song, explaining he’d gone into a New York record shop and, being a bit fan of Jerry Lee Lewis, picked up a JLL album of country songs which included the one which was to be his next bit hit, The Green Green Grass of Home which appealed right across the board and I still associate with the homeland now.
What’s New Pussy Cat always sounds dated to me – probably because it IS. Seems a long, long time since I heard it played on the radiogramme at home.
He brought the tempo down with Looks like I’m Never Gonna Fall in Love Again and instigated another roar from the legions of faithful when he asked “Are you all right? Are we going for a pint after then?”
He talked a bit between songs, revealing that his grandfather came from Gloucester. Snowshill.
Well we forgive you Tom, but Snowshill, a picture-postcard little village up on the Cotswolds with a nice NT manor house open to the public with a small but menacing collection of samurai warrior outfits, has never been associated with Gloucester before but since you mention it, of *course* it’s Gloucester. And always will be.
Thing with Tom is that he can sing anything really – pop, blues, soul, you name it.
Delilah became a vast magnificent joyous sing-along. ALL the men joined in with that one – including the da-da-daaaaaa-da-da’s.
A friend of mine was up in one of the posh boxes with her husband and friends. They were getting meal and drinks and comfy seating. I’d had a couple of drinks and a packet of crisps. But to be honest, I was loving it among the groundlings. I’d polished off my Pimms and my cider and I danced, sang and cheered the whole way through, along with a gaggle of Welshgirls behing me, one of whom was even louder than me. I didn’t have anything against her enjoying herself but every time she yelled “SEX BOMB!” I temporarily lost the hearing in my left ear.
Anyway although my friend was aloft and way away from the stage and not even Welsh, look you, she texted me repeatedly until my phone battery ran out saying “OMG how cool is this?” “OMG how cool is he?!” “OMG the voice!” So the Tom passion was obviously mutual.
I especially loved the St James’ Infirmary Blues, an Otis Redding number, ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come’, You Can Keep Your Hat On (the Full Monty was SUCH a fab film) and Kiss.
When he and his band took the final bow and he said it had been a great evening and hoped that every other crowd on his tour were as appreciative, it could have been the usual bull but actually, I think he meant it. He looked happy. He looked as he too, felt this was proof, if it were needed, that has never ever been better.
“Thank-ewe” he said, proper Welsh, like.
Thank-ewe, Sir Tom.