The last time I saw Sir Tom in the flesh, as it were, he was strutting his stuff on stage in the RDS in Ireland back in the early 1980s. Girls my age were losing track of their grannies as the old dears rushed the stage to cast their knickers at the King. His trousers were painted on him. And when his oversized rhinestone beltbuckle caught the light, you could have seen it glitter from Mars. Women older than my mother seemed to have lost their reason. I distinctly remember a group of women from the Irish Countrywomen’s Association flinging a pair of enormous bloomers onto the stage embroidered with ‘We love you, Tom’. I was fascinated. The music was great; the entertainment value was excellent; and when I got over the bout of prudishness brought on by the gyrations, I kinda fell for him… in an I’ll-keep-my-eyes-shut-and-you-just-sing-to- me kind of way.
De Wimmen bought me tickets for tonight’s gig in Budapest .(Yes, I know the photo says Prague but had I seen this photo before mentioning that I wanted to go, I wouldn’t have gone. The Budapest PR posters were a lot kinder. To say that he’s had a nip and a tuck here and there goes no where near the truth. It is scary. Really scary. Really, really scary to see what a 69-year-old man can look like, if he has money.) Anyway, we all headed off to Papp László (KG and her lovely new boots and me) and were in our seats just before 8pm for the warm-up act: Felicity Rawlings. Great voice. Nice girl But no Delilah. And I was there for Delilah.
Sir Tom took his own sweet time coming on stage. And I was getting a tad fed up. It was 9.10pm before the band arrived and then another five minutes of strobe lights and SFX before the man himself appeared singing Sugar Daddy, a song penned for him by Bono and The Edge. It was downhill from there. Six modern, poppy songs later (all from his new album 24 Hours) we finally get Delilah. And this is where my confusion started.
I’d been slowly seething, like an auld wan, about not getting what I’d paid for (even though technically I hadn’t paid for anything). I’d expected a trip down memory lane, to drop in and see if the old home town looked the same and to learn all about never falling in love again, maybe even see what was new with pussycat. Instead, I was watching some ould lad in leather strutting his stuff on stage as if he was 29, not 69, and Mick Jagger he ain’t. Tom’s wiggle was a very poor imitation of a bad waggle. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for doing as much as you can for as long as you can but honestly… this was embarrassing. The man has a fantastic voice – still as good as it ever was (the eyes-shut trick still works). He was certainly on form and when, an hour later, I finally got a sniff of the green, green grass of home, I started to relax a bit. It seemed as if the modern stuff was over and he was back to the fellah I met all those years ago.
But as we flipped back and forth between old and new and detoured through the southern United States (I had to open my eyes at this stage to make sure it was still him on stage), I lost myself in an internal debate about concerts. Ticketgoers pay to see a performance and have expectations. Performers are in it for the money and to promote their new stuff. You’d imagine that it was all about satisfying the punters’ needs. So why then, when the crowd was on its feet, in rapturous applause for an oldie, why didn’t he stick with the tried and true instead of all this flash?
I’ve been to four really great concerts in my time: BB King many many years ago in Dublin; Kris Kristoffersen in Dublin a few years back; and both Leonard Concerts, this year (Budapest) and last (Amsterdam). All were low-key with minimal, if any, SFX or lighting effects. Tonight was electric…literally. Louder than loud. Why? Why? Why? …. Delilah.
The Knighthood didn’t make the crassness disappear and the women love him all the more. The crowd was on fire. They wanted more and more and more (oops, that’s Joe Dolan, isn’t it? I’m getting my shapers mixed up!) But I really didn’t know what to make of it all. Yes, of course, plug the new album (and respect to the man for still putting it out there), but a little more of the good stuff would have been nice. Actually, in fairness, the title track 24 Hours has a hint of Johnny Cash about it… and had I heard it at home, I might have been rightly impressed. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just too old for anything but the unplugged version. Bitching aside though, he did actually play all his big hits… it’s just that he didn’t have that many!