The antithesis of Tony Bennett, who has maintained his street credibility by refusing to latch on to the latest trends, Tom Jones has sustained his — 30 years after “It’s Not Unusual”– by keeping up with what’s new, musically, without embarrassing himself.
At the House of Blues Thursday, Jones, backed by an eight-piece band and three singers, proved as at home with songs written by the Wolfgang Press, Rise Robot Rise, Teddy Riley and Lenny Kravitz as with the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” and Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle.” Not to mention a few of Jones’ own hits, notably “Delilah,””I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” and “What’s New, Pussycat.”
At a packed-to-the-rafters show, Jones previewed material from his upcoming Interscope Records debut, an album teaming him with several contemporary writers and producers, as well as veterans Richard Perry and Jeff Lynne. Live, the material sounds more like Tom Jones than anything else.
And in a bit of label cross-promotion, Linda Perry of Interscope’s 4 Non-Blondes joined Jones for a duet of his 1971 “She’s a Lady.”
Audience reaction to the super-energetic set was ecstatic, enough so to drown out the high-decibel chattering characteristic of House of Blues audiences. High points of the newer material included Jones’ 1988 hit version of Prince’s “Kiss, ” Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way” (a potential hit single that’s not on the new album) and, from Interscope’s “The Lead and How to Swing It,””If I Only Knew” and, especially, “A Girl Like You.”
While some of the electronics are retained from the synth-heavy album — appropriate, perhaps, on contemporary radio — the band in live performance sounded like real musicians playing real instruments.