It’s not unusual that it rained... and it didn’t half Thunderball as well
The knowing glances and a gentle chuckle which rippled through the crowd as Sir Tom Jones sang the lyric: “I was born like this, I had no choice, I was born with the gift of a golden voice”, said it all.
In a record-breaking night at Lytham Proms, not one of the 14,000-strong crowd was going to disagree with the words from Leonard Cohen’s Tower Of Song.
There are not many performers who could utter those words and it be so willingly agreed by an audience, but on Saturday night, the Welsh legend held every one of us in the palm of his hand during his 90-minute set.
That said, opening acts Blackpool’s Rae Morris and Jones’s fellow countrywoman Cerys Matthews were two women with perhaps 18-carat golden voices, compared to Jones’ 24-carat standard.
Rae was sweetly excited to be on home ground, and told the audience how thrilled she was to be supporting Sir Tom - a massive accolade for the young singer songwriter.
Her hauntingly beautiful voice rang out creating a hush over a slowly-filling Lytham Green, which was bathed in sunlight after a rain soaked day. Fans were treated to a new track called Love Again which she said had only previously been heard by a couple of people.
Building from a blues guitar solo starting point, Matthews gradually added in band members and played a well-pitched set, mixing traditional Welsh folk songs (albeit with world music beats) with the Catatonia hits Road Rage and Mulder and Scully for sing along value, and covers such as Ring Of Fire and a lullaby-gentle Love Me Tender.
Her unique tones felt pretty perfect in the evening sun and she drew out the Fylde fans’ Welsh patriotism ready for the main man.
And what a main man he was.
It was never in doubt that Jones’ set would be fantastic, and with 21 tracks – plus three in the encore – he was generous with his music, even if he couldn’t pronounce ‘Lytham’ and resorted to saying ‘near Blackpool’. He was forgiven this in an instant.
He set the Proms stage on fire to open with Burning Hell, before instant crowd-pleasers Mama Told Me Not To Come and Sexbomb. But Jones did tempt fate somewhat by including the track Didn’t It Rain - and such was the power of his voice, it was like he’d reached up into the clouds to wring out what water was left in them over the crowd, greeting the short lived shower with a nonchalant ‘Oh well’.
We were soon back on track to enjoy some new recordings from a forthcoming album, which had deep country, blues and gospel roots.
But it was the classics, Delilah and It’s Not Unusual - each with a strong Latin revamp - and You Can Leave Your Hat On, that set the audience alight, as well as an understated, yearning rendition of Green Green Grass of Home, even though the green, green grass of Lytham has all but disappeared into mud.
Jones’ bright blues eyes twinkled at the cheekier lyrics in some songs, obviously still loving stirring up a frenzy among his audience, even at the age of 74.
The nine-piece band was enjoying the night as much as Jones and his crowd – a neat brass section were dancing just as much as we were, clearly having a blast. In fact, the band would be worth the ticket price alone, and Jones gave them all due credit with generous solos and full introduction come the end of the night.
“We want Tom” was the cry when they left the stage, and we were rewarded with a three-song encore of Thunderball, Kiss and Strange Things before having to finally accept the biggest night in Lytham Proms’ history was over.