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At the Orpheum, a moving performance from a seated Tom Jones

Tom Jones at the Orpheum Theatre.Michael Christopher

Early on during Tom Jones’s gratifying show Wednesday at the Orpheum Theatre, he wanted to address the walking stick. The singer who’d once epitomized an easy-going machismo had stepped gingerly onstage aided by a cane. Laying it down, he perched his backside on the edge of a stool, where he would remain.

He had a hip replacement five years ago, he explained. (At his age — 82 ― it’s not unusual.) Now he’s been told he needs the other one replaced. When he gets the surgery, he joked, “I’ll be hipper than hip.”

From Swinging London and the glitz of Vegas to his synth-pop and EDM guest appearances, Jones has always been casually hip. But his current show digs past the surface to gaze into the grave.


If that sounds depressing, rest assured that it was not. In a kind of concept concert, Jones and his versatile band kept the focus on his age and reflections on the good fortunes of his life. It was a joy to witness.

The 90-minute setlist leaned heavily on “Surrounded By Time,” his 2021 album of covers. It’s his fourth collection in the past decade of favorite roots music produced by Ethan Johns.

“I’m growing dimmer in the eyes/ I’m growing fainter in my talk/ I’m growing deeper in my sighs/ I’m growing slower in my walk,” he sang in “I’m Growing Old” to open the show. The song, an obscurity by the unheralded Bobby Cole (whom Frank Sinatra once called “may favorite saloon singer”), is a perfect fit for today’s Sir Tom.

He followed that with his version of Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet” (“but it’s getting there”). Despite the somber subject matter, Jones was clearly enjoying himself.

“Yeah!” he cried as the band brought that one to a close. “Uh-huh!”

His impossibly full voice remains so, like a human trombone. The band cast “It’s Not Unusual,” the first of the crowd-pleasers he sprinkled into the set, as a bossa nova. A continental accordion added flair.


One enthusiastic fan leaped to her feet and did the swim. A few minutes later, the audience joined in en masse for the “whoa-oh-oh”s of “What’s New Pussycat?”

That big Bacharach and David hit from 1965 featured swirling footage of a carousel. Throughout the show, the screen behind the band flashed with dynamic images, often including multiple closeups of Jones in Warholian colors.

Tom Jones leads his band at the Orpheum Theatre Wednesday night.Michael Christopher

Made famous by the late Dusty Springfield, “The Windmills of Your Mind” was another cosmic plunge into memory. When Jones sang Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song” — “I was born with the gift of a golden voice” — he quipped that he likes to think Cohen wrote it for him.

There were a few forgettable moments. The silly “Sex Bomb,” a big hit in the UK in 2000, was one, despite the band’s best efforts at a bluesy groove. Let the record show, however: The song inspired one female fan to toss the night’s sole pair of panties onstage.

Admirers like her were mainly on hand to hear Jones do the big hits. Led by his longtime arranger, Gary Wallis, on drums, the band gave “Green, Green Grass of Home” a hint of the Grand Ole Opry, and they turned the epic “Delilah” into a cowboy showdown, minus the mariachi horns.

Due to Jones’s mobility issue, the musicians remained onstage for their “encore,” skipping the customary ritual of walking off and back onstage. “One Hell of a Life,” another somber-but-uplifting song written by fellow Wales native Katell Keinig, closed the lid on the night’s contemplative theme.


Then Jones leaned into his rock ‘n’ roll origins. He paid tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe on the rousing spiritual “Strange Things Happening Every Day.” Before wrapping up with “Johnny B. Goode,” he recalled the time he and Elvis went to see Chuck Berry play in the lounge of the Las Vegas Hilton.

“There is the real king of rock ‘n’ roll,” Elvis told him. Sure, but Sir Tom is be-knighted.


At the Orpheum Theatre, Wednesday

E-mail James Sullivan at jamesgsullivan@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.