Tom Jones at Outside Lands 2009

I was asked to write a review of Tom Jones’ performance the 2009 Outside Lands Music and Arts festival in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California. The following was originally published at

I took the afternoon off Friday to attend the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival held in San Francisco’s beautiful Golden Gate Park. Our mission: to see Tom Jones.

It all started months ago when my wife and I thought it would be fun to celebrate her birthday in Las Vegas and to do something ‘quintessentially Las Vegas’. So we landed great tickets to see Tom at the MGM August 17th.

Being a child of the late 60’s and early 70’s I recall my easily-embarrassed Mom covering her eyes when Tom Jones would make an appearance, and catching her peeking through her fingers and giggling at how “suggestively” he moved, or seeing her sigh over him hitting a beautiful note, as only Tom Jones can. I figured it might be fun to see him live.

As luck would have it, I wound-up sitting next to Portia, who many of you know as the woman who had Tom sign her shoulder the night prior; getting it tattoo-ed later that same night. So even before the show got started we realized we were in for something special. Special it was, “Quintessentially Vegas,” on the other hand, would only apply if it means “above and beyond, spectacular, powerful, like no other.” What you get from Tom Jones is a concert performance that rivals all of the major names past and present.

lee 2OL git me someWe entered the MGM as people who had heard about Tom Jones and of course had enjoyed the music of his that we had been exposed to; but we left as real fans. My only regrets about the MGM are A) it’s a few hundred miles from home so we can’t go there whenever we want and B) it’s a lovely place with tables, so dancing isn’t quite the norm there.

For the rest of the review, more photos and a video of Tom singing Delilah at Outside Lands
Fast-forward a couple weeks and here we are in Golden Gate Park braving the perfect weather and dealing with a crowd that is probably one of the most well-mannered festival crowds I’ve ever seen; along with subjecting ourselves to the ordeal of the Winehaven tent: over a dozen California wineries giving tastes of their delicious wines right next to temptations such as Cambazola fondue
and the now infamous Mission Mini gourmet cupcakes. Oh it’s tough living in the Bay Area and Outside Lands was going to test our will. Hehehehe

I came expecting the typical dusty, cacophonous, smoky, crowded, wasted festival scene and it was anything but. Instead we got friendly conscientious music fans who each were doing their part to make this one of the most relaxing and enjoyable events ever to be held in Golden Gate Park; and because of the excellent planning, lines were non-existent. We checked-out a couple bands; easily making our way forward to the stage in most cases. I was quite happy the sound folks at the stages were really taking their jobs seriously.

So we headed over to the Sutro Stage over in Lindley Meadow. Initially I was worried about it being off the beaten track but there was quite a stream of humanity making their way over to see Sir Tom. This time, the audience was probably mostly weighted in the 30-somethings. We approached the T-shirt tent to see what was selling and I kept hearing women asking about Tom Jones baby tee’s, Tom Jones nighties, Tom Jones underthings. Hey merchandising, there’s a market to be filled in those items!

Sun was setting behind the stage, swelling crowd basted in the aromas probably not unfamiliar to the children of the 1960’s, the shadows outlining the California Redwoods and Eucalyptus trees behind the stage, making for a beautiful and natural backdrop to frame the stage.

The band came on stage and the crowd started to cheer. And after a short intro as ‘the one, the only, SIR TOM JONES!’ out came our man, and was he ever in the mood to get the party started!

He went right into the classic Tommy James song “I’m Alive” with such power the entire crowd was up and dancing from the start. The memory of this guy in a blue Mohawk dancing nearby singing along with a smile across his face right next to an older couple having the time of their lives will be forever etched in my mind as a moment where music brings people together.

The beginning notes to Hard to Handle started to ring out and Tom belted it out like he wrote the song himself. I think that’s one of the man’s best gifts: he brings so much emotion and puts himself fully into every piece he performs.

I realize Tom Jones has been at it for decades but I’m REALLY REALLY digging his newest album 24 Hours and so when I hear anything from it, I get really really happy. Give A Little Love was next and with it’s social awareness and the message of love, you really couldn’t ask for a better song to
sing to a crowd in San Francisco. No doubt this was the first time many folks there heard this song but by the second time the chorus came around, everyone was happily singing along. Talk about a catchy tune!

Next up, they pulled out Green Green Grass of Home, written way back in the 60’s by Claude “Curly” Putman Jr. Again, Tom made it his own. Meanwhile that smell of another kind of San Francisco treat started REALLY wafting over the audience, one can only guess, due to the title of the song.

I won’t even try to relay when and how many underthings were tossed onto the stage. During some parts of the show, I would put the rate of flying panties/boxers/bras at no less than one-per second. With Tom Jones on tour, the undergarment industry MUST experience some sort of up-tick in sales. Does anyone know what becomes of all of those underthings? Just wondering. :)

Delilah started and I swear the guy in the blue Mohawk was waltzing to it, still singing along. Such a dark song, but still catchy.

If I Only Knew was played with feeling and it started feeling like the crowd had more than doubled from the beginning of the show. Still, everyone was in great spirits and there was no pushing or shoving.

The beginning riff of Git Me Some started and Tom told us about how ’some think of this as the dirty blues, but this is the SEXY blues.’ Oh the over-the-top innuendo is definitely a hit with this crowd. I swear I saw Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder make his way to the front and toss a pair of plaid boxers onto the stage during that song. :)

Sir Tom gave a short introduction of most of his awesome band and then mentioned his work with the Stereophonics and this song Mama Told Me (Not to Come), originally done by San Francisco’s Three Dog Night. Of course this crowd-pleaser was met with even more raucous cheering. By this time, I’m sure the rest of the bands playing at the other stages had either put their instruments down to come over and see what all the noise was about or they were already there.

Never say never. Well, unless Never is the name of the next song he played from his newest album.

They went right into I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, which just melted the crowd. By now the stars were peeking out into the rare fog-less San Francisco evening.

By this time in the show I was expecting the crowd to begin thinning-out to catch the Pearl Jam performance that was to begin right after Tom Jones. This wasn’t the case. People stuck around and the crowd continued to swell. This was obviously where the party was at and everyone knew it.

So they pulled out She’s A Lady and as if the crowd wasn’t already ecstatic, this just pushed them over the edge. It should be said that throughout this show, Tom would give the perfectly placed subtle pelvic thrust or booty shake and women (and a lot of men) would just lose it. As I said a few weeks ago after my first Tom Jones show: the guy has more mojo than my entire generation
collectively. We’ve got a lot to learn!

What is it with Tom Jones and catchy songs? What’s New Pussycat is a classic and what a blast it was to be there with Tom leading the entire audience through the chorus.

You Can Leave Your Hat On started and the 1-airborne-pantie-per-second rate increased seven-fold. And it didn’t let up from that point forward.

Sex Bomb exploded and the crowd was once again doing their part to keep up with this infectious groove of a song.

It’s Not Unusual was a big crowd pleaser and terrific set-closer. Tom left the stage and the crowd immediately starting screaming for more. People were still pouring in.

Tom came back out on the stage and when they started playing Kiss, the crowd, I’m pretty sure, began to levitate about six feet above the ground, dancing and singing along, and cheering WILDLY when he took his own advice “I think I better dance now”. Come on, you guys only HOPE you can shake it like
that when you’re even half Tom’s age!

Well the night was wearing-on and no doubt Eddie Vedder had to get back to his stage to fulfill his contractual obligations. Even so, the crowd stuck around chanting “TOM! TOM! TOM!” Alas, as all things do, this too came to pass. It was a night we’ll always remember. We’re definitely Tom Jones fans now!