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Tom Jones in Concert, 9 October 2009, Cardiff

by Dragonlady

Finally! I have no idea why I never did this before! I saw Tom Jones in Cardiff! My voice is all hoarse now from all the cheering and the hours of chatting with friends, I am not used to talking that much!

To me, Wales is a special place for many reasons. I often say that Switzerland is the land of my roots, and they are deeply set. But England is my second home, Scotland is the land of my dreams (as in, I wouldn't live there but I love to dream about it) and Wales is where my heart lies.

So when Tom said "It's good to be home!", and the crowd roared in answer I teared up because I feel the same when I go back to Wales. And when he talked about his Dragon ring I cheered too. Paraphrasing he said "I am wearing my Dragon Ring tonight. I wear it most of the time but I sometimes change the rings I wear. But I had to make sure I was wearing the Dragon tonight." And I had to do the same, I took my silver Dragon brooch, that I made a couple of years ago. I would love to give it to Tom one day but meanwhile I got very attached to the little bugger, I am not sure I would give him away now. Anyway it's not for nothing people call me Dragonlady. Dragons are my life, and Wales has got more Dragon legends to the kilometer than most countries. Their flag is based on the myth of Merlin, it doesn't get any better.

Seeing Tom Jones at home was something I meant to do for years. And it was well worth the long trip. I am sure that "Y Ddraig Goch" the Red Dragon was curled up there under the hall, to listen to our Tiger Tom belt out his powerful notes as he only can, and the Dragon was beaming with pride.

No matter how I do it, going to Wales is a long trip. Instead of flying through London for once I went through Paris, so I could join my friend Nathalie and fly to Cardiff with her. We had booked our seats together too. So on Thursday I took a train to Paris, and met Jessica and Berenice for a drink. It's so cool to have friends wherever you travel to, no time to get idle or bored.

After a nice chat and a restful night, Nathalie and I headed to the airport. The expectation starting to mount. And sure enough as we landed in Cardiff, I felt the usual mix of excitement and impatience. As I walked from my hotel to Nathalie's, I recognised familiar places from last year, and the the big Red Dragon that adorns the CIA venue, I waved hello to him.

Nathalie and myself were both a bit nervous about our tickets as we had to collect them at the box office and that's always a bit hard of the nerves "hope they didn't forget us?" but we managed, and we even got to sneak in for a while as security didn't realise immediately we weren't VIPs. We heard the sound check and saw a bit of the light show through a small window pane (pretending not to be interested at all) but at one point it became hard not to jump up and down in excitement as we hear a very familiar voice testing the microphone! We didn't get a glimpse of the familiar silhouette but that was unmistakably Tom doing his own sound check! Not something he usually does.

Nathalie and I have another thing in common, we can't skip the opening act. In my case it's because I would go mad waiting anywhere else, and anyway, I am used to standing venues where you have to go early if you want a place at the front. Sometimes opening acts are pure torture but Florence Rawlings was nothing like that. She's got a very nice voice and a repertoire that fits the taste of Tom's audience. Her band is also very good. I didn't notice time going by which is a good sign really. She's only 20 so I am sure we'll be hearing a lot more from her.

In between acts we chatted with a lot of the fans around us, it was great to see so many generations together. A lady from Geneva who seemed as excited as we were, and our direct neighbour an 87 year old Welsh woman who emigrated to Canada when she was 18 and had come home to see Tom. I felt very emotional chatting with her, she looked a bit like my mother's mum, but was the same age as my dad's mum would be now, and she was the Tom Jones fan in the family before I was! I felt as if both my grandmothers had arranged this so I could remember them. This lady also came to both Friday's and Saturday's shows, and the next day complained a bit about sore feet for all the dancing but still danced some more that second night!

What about the concerts then? There has been a lot of talk about the new band. It is always a thrill I find, to hear new arrangements and styles. So I put aside my gripe (with management only I hasten to add) and opened my ears. I must say I loved what I heard. The two bands are so different. I am of course very sad I never got to see the "old" band. I had grown to love them and finally knew most of their names. I had been daydreaming of seeing them behind Tom for years.

The first thing that came to mind when I heard the new band was, wow what a tight band! They have only been playing a few concerts and they interact very tightly, "compact" was also a word that sprang to mind. The best proof is that I felt as if it was a much smaller band when there is only one musician less, number wise! I loved the looser approach before too, and the extreme versatility of the "old" band. This is more concentrated on modern sounds. I am not an expert in electronic music, and I am not really a fan of dance music unless it is very high quality. But I adored the song Tom did with Chicane "Stoned in Love" and I was very curious to hear it live.

The first night that song sounded good, but a bit "confused". In the original Tom's voice is sampled on several tracks, and if you want to do that live, well you need to play the samples back and sing over them. The second night was much better but I must agree with people who think the samples are not adding anything, the song would probably sound better with just Tom's natural voice.

The songs come in groups, there is the "countryish" theme (as Tom put it) very acoustic, to give the feel of a small group in a pub. And around the end there is a whole dance section. "Stoned In Love" segues into a dance version of “Sex Bomb" which is very refreshing. And "Kiss" sounds a lot more like the original Art of Noise version, very, very cool! Like Nathalie I also think this one song could do with one more trumpet, but it sounds great.

"Take me Back To The Party" finished off the dance section and is also the last song of the set. I love it when they finish with a high energy song it makes parting easier. Only trouble is I couldn't sleep because it kept playing in my head!

But I am starting with the end here, sorry that's a psychological tactic to avoid the "post concert blues". Tom's entrance is now very different, more like other artists do it. The band launches into the beginning of "Sugar Daddy" and Tom arrives on cue, getting to business without further ado. And boy is that song good! The bass is amazing, full and vibrant but not shattering as it can be when it grabs you around the chest and makes you feel ill. No, that is the kind of sexy bass that I adore, it works wonders on "Sugar Daddy" the booming sound underlining Tom's tongue in cheek routine.

"Give A Little Love" is all it promises to be live, I couldn't wait to hear that one. And the third song was "Thunderball" one of my all time favourites since I am a big James Bond fan. When I was a kid I used to have that tape with all the Bond themes on it and my favourites were always Tom and Shirley Bassey. The first night, I took some photos of Tom during this song, he's very concentrated during this, and he blew everyone away when he reached the end of the song and belted out the same powerful long note as he always did. Had we not already been sitting I'm sure most of the hall would have been floored literally! The man is 69 but he has lungs of steel!

I am not going to detail every song as this would turn into a small essay, but needless to say that when Tom started "Delilah" the crowd went nuts! It's already cool to hear anywhere but in Wales this is the unofficial National Anthem! Every single person in the hall was singing along and dancing! Of course there was yet another standing ovation too. All the other classics earned the same reaction. But what was more surprising is that during the "country" songs (more like acoustic versions of well known songs) the entire hall was singing along as well! Notably during "Save The Last Dance For Me" and "He'll Have To Go." I must say I like that way of grouping similar songs. "Mama Told Me Not To Come" is another favourite of mine (it's a collaboration with Welsh band the Stereophonics) along with "Burning Down The House," both songs from the "Reload" album. The latter being the occasion of a great duet with one of the new backing vocalists.

I will conclude this with the two slower songs that I adore (there are many other great moments in my mind but I have to stop somewhere) “Never” and right afterwards "24 Hours," both from the new album. I just sat there so mesmerised that I nearly forgot to clap at the end. Two overwhelming songs really. "Never" is about Tom's voice as he explains before singing it, but it can also describe what we fans feel for our favourite music and musicians.

Especially this part:
"When you're not around its your melody that I miss
Like an old friend you come back to me so quick
And after all this time I've still got you in my life
You and me we're going strong
You and me we still belong "

Music is really the centre of my life, it's what makes me happy or soothes me if I am sad. I could never live without music. Going home after such a concert is always like walking in a dream, I am not really touching ground for a while.

On the last day my train was only leaving Paris at 16h58. So once again I took the opportunity to meet a friend. Isabelle and I had a nice meal and a chat about music and stuff, what else after this week end? At one point I am sure she could notice my attention fade a bit, as I thought I was really going mad and heard voices (one voice in particular). But sure enough despite the noise of conversations, my ears had noticed Tom's voice on the radio. Sure enough they were playing "What's New Pussycat"! Again, what else?

And as if all that wasn't enough, I saw the cutest fox sitting next to the railway tracks as my train entered Lyon. He was patiently waiting for the train to pass. If you know me, any trip under the sign of the Dragon and the Fox is the most perfect memory I can think of.


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