Music review: Tom Jones, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

He may be in his eighties, but Tom Jones still has more than enough vocal firepower to bring his most famous material to life, writes David Pollock

Tom Jones PIC: PA
Tom Jones PIC: PA

Tom Jones, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh ****

With Sir Ian McKellen and Herbie Hancock both performing during this Edinburgh Festival, it appears to be the year of the eighty-something. Much like his contemporaries, Tom Jones has weathered impressively over the years, with only the pure whiteness of his hair and goatee contradicting his physical and vocal power.

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The other impressive factor, and this feels thrown into sharper focus every time he tours, is just how much he’s parlayed the energy of his younger decades’ most famous material – roaring voice, distinctive pop melodies, air of kitsch, hen-party sexuality – into a career as an elder rock statesperson. His style here was more in line with the raw rhythm ‘n’ blues of his younger years, yet he and his band manage to incorporate all that old material seamlessly.

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It's Not Unusual, Sex Bomb and a tender Green Green Grass of Home appeared, and Delilah’s tone was subtly but perfectly transformed with accordion-led Spanish folk backing.

The backdrop turned into a 3D dancefloor for You Can Leave Your Hat On, while an impressive level of funk was mustered by the band for Kiss. Jones’ version remains one of the best and only examples of a singer making a song belonging to Prince their own.

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Around these staples, more mature material was interwoven. From last year’s covers album Surrounded By Time, powerfully-owned versions of Bob Dylan’s One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below) and Terry Callier’s Lazarus Man were perfectly adapted for his style, while Todd Snider’s prowling, rocky Talking Reality Television Blues (in which an Apprentice star wreaks “reality killed by a reality star”) is an almost too on-the-nose commentary on Jones’ own unhappy reality judging experience.

Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song sounded perfect in his hands, and a recent song named One Hell of a Life urges the world to “please don't philosophise or feel regret” when he’s gone. As the closing cover of Johnny B Goode demonstrated, he feels young and lucky to this day.