-By Dariya Salmin
On Sunday night, the people of Perth were lucky enough to witness the specular Sir Tom Jones at Kings Park. Supported by local group Odette Mercy and Her Soul Atomics and the marvelous Mahalia Barnes with her band The Soul Mates, this would be a night that would go down in history. Even though it was still ridiculously humid at five o’clock, Kings Park became rapidly filled to its capacity. With a sold out show, it was no wonder everyone was keen to get down there early not to miss an opportunity of a lifetime.
Odette Mercy and Her Soul Atomics set the mood for the evening, as they played a funky, jazzy and soulful performance. Similar in aesthetics and sound to Mahalia Barnes and The Soul Mates, Mercy’s set differed in style as it was more laid back and easy listening. The relaxed atmosphere made it easier for everyone to bear the heat, as they bought more and more ice cold drinks. The six-member band incorporated a variety of instruments including a saxophone and a trumpet. However it was Odette Mercy’s wonderful voice that stood out the most.
As the sun finally set, a giant sigh of relief filled Kings Park. The Sun took the heat away with it, leaving in it’s presence, a beautiful balmy night making way to the stage the incredible Mahalia Barnes and The Soul Mates. The five-piece band consisting of (Mahalia’s husband) Ben Rodgers on bass, Franco Raggatt on Guitar, Paul Grey on Keys and Dave Hibbard on Drums, played a variety of blues, soul and rock throughout the hour. Barnes, with her soulful and powerful vocal abilities, covered quite a few Betty Davis songs, such as If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up, and Ike & Tina Turner’s song River Deep, Mountain High, but it was her cover of Carol King’s (famously covered by Aretha Franklin) (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, that left everyone with goose bumps as they sang along. As The Soul Mates gave a poetically melodic performance, Barnes sang each note which such talent and beauty. The cover was a chilling and captivating piece, making it a highlight of the night. Barnes and The Soul Mates sang a few songs off their EP Volume 1, including a beautiful tribute to Barnes and Ben’s daughter Ruby, called Little Lights. Finishing the set off they performed Tina Turner’s song Proud Mary, everyone got up and danced, having such a great time, and it was clear Mahalia Barnes and The Soul Mates made a lasting impression on the audience.
Opening with one of his newer hits Burning Hell, Tom Jones lit up the stage as everyone cheered and whistled. Wearing his smart yet casual suit, Jones had the audience captivated from the very beginning with his magnificently haunting yet timeless voice. Speaking about his friendship with Elvis Presley and his time spent in Las Vegas, Jones sang his song Run On, a bluesy and country rock song that got everyone grooving in their spot. After Run On, Jones sang Don’t Knock and Didn’t It Rain but it was his fifth song Sex Bomb that had the audience’s complete enthusiastic attention. Women of all ages threw their underwear on stage which made it obvious that yes, Sir Tom Jones of 75 years of age, still had it. Starting the song off slowly, with just a guitar and his voice, Jones created a mysterious element to the famous song. Building up a climax the lights shone onto the crowd and all the instruments joined in for a faster pace. By his eighth song Black Eyed Susie, Jones’ shirt was complete drenched in sweat, which he modestly acknowledged “it shouldn’t be this hot in March?” As he spoke about the rugby earlier that day, it was clear there were a lot of Welsh in the audience as they started to boo. Jones spoke about where in Wales he was from and then launched into the more country than rock song. Nine people joined him on stage, so there was a large variety of instruments, including a trombone, a sax, a trumpet, piano, keys, drums, guitar and an accordion. The tenth song was the famous Delilah, which had everyone captivated as Jones sang the start by himself, “I saw the light on the night that I passed by her window.” A soulful beginning that gained momentum as the instruments picked up. I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, and Soul Of a Man were next, then Tom Jones did a cover of Gillian Welch’s Elvis Presley Blues “That’s a strong song, that’s Elvis’ life in three verses.” People were having the time of their lives, as many of the older generation relived their youths for hits such as Green Green Grass Of Home, It’s Not Unusual, You Can Leave Your Hat On, I Wish You Would and Kiss. Tom Jones surprised everyone as he performed non-stop with such charisma, strength and talent for two energetic hours. After thanking everyone briefly and walking off stage, it was clear it wasn’t over yet as Jones and the band came back on stage for the encore. Finishing the night off with a “rock n roll, gospel, rhythm n blues, soulful” bang, Jones performed the song, suggested to him by Little Richard, Strange Things Happen Everyday. Always modest to acknowledge everyone else behind his music, Sir Tom Jones thanked the band one by one, as they all bowed together. “Goodnight and god bless you all” were his last words, extremely fitted as everyone left feeling a little bit more blessed than before.
Photo Credit: Matthew Picken