Monday, Jan. 25, 2010 | 4:38 p.m.
The singer is fitted stoutly in a silvery suit and untucked purple shirt. His hair seems frosted white, except that it is not. Instead, the 69-year-old singer has allowed his tightly cropped mane to retain its natural, stately shade of gray.
This is hardly a just-for-men experience.
The venerable entertainer looks a little like Snow Miser, actually. At least, he looks like Snow Miser if Snow Miser wore a goatee, and he attacks the music with the same glee as the character voiced by Dick Shawn in the Rankin/Bass classic, "The Year Without a Santa Claus."
But there is something amiss here, for Tom Jones, and it's in his ear. More specifically, it's what's not in his ear: Music. He cannot properly hear his still-rich voice and music from his solid eight-piece band. So he has yanked out the ever-present in-ear audio monitors — if that's the technical term — so they hang from his neck like strands of cosmetic jewelry.
Tommy needs help! Chop-chop!
"One is not working at the moment," he says, holding one of the earpieces delicately between his thumb and forefinger as he effectively pulls the e-brake on the show in its early moments.
"I gotta have two working," he says, arching his eyebrows. "You know what I'm talkin' about?"
The women in the audience giggle — Tommy is so ribald! There are many women in this audience. The entire front row of seats at the MGM Grand Hollywood Theater, the ones where woman can easily hit their target with a pair of knotted panties, are filled with women. One shouts, "Can I have them!?"
Jones peers out at the fan, pauses comically, and responds, "That depends. What are you planning to do with them?"
As operable audio equipment is retrieved, Jones tap-dances a bit, and of course he's good at that, too. He's like James Bond, this guy, at once disarming and carrying ... a weapon. Ask your date what that weapon might be.
He's finally presented with a replacement set of earpieces, which he grabs with a hearty, "Thank you so much." Then he slyly says, "Let me put it in ... Excuse my French."
It was an off-script moment from the singing Welshman, customarily cool and confident. It's been about 10 years since I've caught a Tom Jones show, and it's difficult to recall details from that most recent show. I took my mother to that performance. I remember spending much of the night focused on her because I honestly thought she might rush the stage or, God forbid, throw something.
But on this night, a Sunday, post-AFC-and-NFC-championship evening when the theater was no more than two-thirds full, Tom Jones commanded attention. I'd had my curiosity about Jones rejuvenated over the holidays, when I was talking with members of Elvis Presley's inner circle for a story that appeared this month in Las Vegas Weekly, commemorating the anniversary of Presley's 75th birthday. During these interviews, Jones' name kept surfacing as a model for Presley had Presley lived to entertain into his 60s and 70s.
You can see the similarities. Jones moves well and can still sing anything. "Momma Told Me Not to Come," "You Can Leave Your Hat On," and a joyful take on Prince's "Kiss," were songs he seamlessly slid into a set list that included the predictably crowd-pleasing "Delilah," "What's New Pussycat," and "It's Not Unusual."
Even today, women shriek and throw their underwear at Jones, who often acknowledges the act with such deft — a sideways glance, or a smirk — it's difficult to tell if he's honored or bored. Probably the former. When a woman from the back of the room shouted, "Take OFF the coat!" Jones promised, "Later, it's all coming off." It was unclear if he meant later in the show, or later that night. Probably the latter.
Jones still is relevant to some of the biggest stars in contemporary music. Bono and The Edge of U2 wrote "Sugar Daddy," which is on his latest release, "24 Hours." He's fearless in his choice of material, too. Consider a song like, "Sex Bomb," for instance. Jones might be the only man inching toward age 70 who can sing, "Sex bomb, sex bomb, you're a sex bomb! And baby you can turn me on!" and not seem terrifically sad. During "Kiss," at the moment he shouts, "I think I'd better dance now!" your involuntary response is, "NO!" But Jones manages to swivel his hips and maintain a measure of ripened dignity, even amid a flurry of tossed-off Victoria's Secret merchandise.
Near the show's end, Jones does shed his jacket, showing a bit more hulk than, say, 35 years ago. But he's far from out of shape, physically or in his sense of spirit. As the curtain slowly drops, he continues to call out to the audience, "See you tomorrow night! Same place, same time!"
We can only wish, Tommy. Maybe on the next visit to Vegas. Until then, keep it real. And keep it gray.
Of horns and rhythm
Santa Fe & Fat City Horns are back tonight at Tiffany Theatre, and this showcase is to remain free of charge. Jerry Lopez, guitarist and vocalist, said the band had convinced hotel management to cap the admission price at "zero." The overriding reason is that there is an enormous difference between zero dollars and 20 dollars, what we might call the Jimmy Hopper Syndrome, or the dip in attendance when a once-free show starts charging 20 bucks a ticket.
Tonight, Kissy Simmons of "The Lion King" is expected to join the boys and sing a couple of numbers. Members of Bette Midler's band, too, are penciled in. It's quite a time. The gig starts at 10:30 p.m.
A great joke from a porn queen, this from Sunset Thomas of "Cathouse" fame: "Brett Favre wants to retire, but every time he throws in the towel it's intercepted!"
And if you are thinking, "Anyone imaginative enough to come up with such a timely joke should have her image drawn on the famed wall of caricatures at Palm Restaurant at the Forum Shops at Caesars!" you're in luck. A sketch of Sunset Thomas has been added to that collection of celebs and newsmakers. Palm GM Lawrence Close says Thomas is the first adult-industry icon to be so honored by the restaurant.
One reason for the honor is that Thomas does it a lot there. Dine, we mean ...
My latest read is a collection of short stories written by a long-renowned Las Vegas saloon owner that begins with the sentence: "Two naked girls."
This is how "Blue Vegas," by P Moss, is ignited. I got my mitts on an advance copy of this collection of 17 based-in-Vegas short stories during a late-night visit to Frankie's Tiki Room on Friday. The "Blue Vegas" official release date is March 2, its listed price is $14.95, and its published by CityLife Books, a division of Stephens Press (owned by the company that owns the Review-Journal). The amassed stories, with such titles as "The Curse of Frank Sinatra," "Plastic Jesus," and "The 8:16 To Nowheresville" promise to reflect Moss' obtuse observations of a city he adopted as his hometown when he opened Double Down Saloon in 1992.
Moss said Friday that his plans to expand beyond the two Vegas taverns and Double Down in New York are on hold, for now. Be happy with what you have, is how he termed it.
Always inventive with his cocktail selection, Moss also mentioned that Frankie's offers one of the city's most extensive rum collections. An example: Just one case of the 30-year-old Appleton Estate Rum has been distributed in the state of Nevada. Frankie's has two bottles, which retail for just under $500 apiece, and is sold at $79 a shot at the Tiki Room. The other 10 bottles are owned by Manardin Oriental at CityCenter. It's a pretty heady inventory for a man whose most famous drink is either Ass Juice or the Bacon Martini, both served at Double Down. (I was tempted to try this 30-year-old rum, but it would have cost us a lot more than $79.)
Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.