Has the term sexagenarian ever been more appropriate? At 68, Tom Jones’s sex appeal is staggering, humbling, an embarrassment to young men in the crowd. Jones paws the air and himself, smiles like a cartoon lion, and displays the footwork of an ex-premiere league soccer star. He is an athlete and a sensualist. He clearly turns himself on.
The first pair of panties hit the stage during “Delilah” (“Why, why, WHY, DELILAH?”) and continued to rain down on Sir Tom as he prowled through his catalogue of mega-hits: “It’s Not Unusual,” “What’s New Pussycat?,” “Sexbomb,” “She’s a Lady.” At least 10% of the female crowd chucked their underwear at him, usually missing the mark by 20 feet, but occasionally grazing Jones’s natty head or thigh. He made one half-hearted attempt to catch a well-aimed garter belt. But after forty years of tucking undies into his back pocket, the whole routine must seem depressingly stale.
Who goes to a Tom Jones concert in Manhattan? Mainly it’s middle-aged women in groups of three or four: friends from work wasted by 8:30, fumbling with their bra straps and screaming at Jones to take his pants off. But it’s also elderly ladies in fur (one of whom must’ve been at least 20 years Tom’s senior), happy suburban dads in EMS jackets, Jay and Silent Bob types in trenchcoats soaking up the irony, bros in Mardi Gra beads, and young conservatively dressed girls snapping their fingers with odd nostalgia. What sort of wistful memories do 28-year-olds have of Tom Jones other than dancing at bar mitzvahs, proms, and wedding receptions? Who knows. Then again, “Sexbomb,” which feels like a remastered seventies classic, came out in 1999. This is our music, too, in a way.
By the end of the set Terminal 5 smelled like a Macy’s perfume counter, all those dilated pores having pumped their flowery scent into the air. A bald guy was telling his shy wife: “It’s almost over, just throw your panties up there already!” She nodded, determined, and then let them fly. They landed on some guy’s shoulder in the third row. Afterwards, several women came to the front of the stage to collect their things. Stagehands were slingshotting thongs at one another. “You see a padded black bra up there? C-cup?” a woman in spandex and red heels asked. “Nah,” said a security guard. He quietly admired the growing pile of lingerie. Then he said, “Damnit. Tom Jones is the fucking man!”–Jed Lipinski