Tom Jones turns 68 years old this Saturday. Yet, last Thursday at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, women of all ages threw panties at him, squealed with twitterpation and smiled at his every word. Even I, a somewhat peripheral fan, wore a backless dress and pair of undies I thought both sexy and disposable—in case the urge struck me (I ended up opting out, feeling I would have only been participating in a tradition for tradition's sake; that said, I think it's entirely bunk to offer anything besides the underthings you're actually wearing). Despite my reluctance to shed personal garments, I, too, found myself wide-grinning at Jones' vocal embellishments and charmed by his stage banter. And I began to pin down why I think ladies love Tom Jones—you know, besides the hairy, oiled chest and fetching manfro.
1. He's a romantic at heart: On "Help Yourself," Jones—clad in black slacks, a sequin-adorned black dress shirt and cherry-red blazer—sang, "Just help yourself to my lips, to my arms/ Just say the word and they are yours." His bold, hearty delivery indicated a sincere willingness to succumb to amorous whims. And "She's a Lady," which incited the first wave of panty-throwing, is an all-out celebration of love (even if he does call his gal a "wiener" in the first verse).
2. He's playful: Light-footed jumps about the stage and vivacious dance moves (which, as much as his surely dyed dark locks, belied his age) proved Jones is frisky as ever—as did the occasional teeth-baring tiger snarl.
3. He's comfortable with his sexuality: Completely unafraid to be provocative, even at near-70, the venerable and ever-confident Jones proceeded to graze his own loins (sort of tastefully, believe it or not) and flick open his shirt during "200 Pounds of Heavenly Joy." He also took the liberty of pausing subtly (and decidedly lewdly) when delivering that last, "You and your pussy...cat nose." Rowr!
4. He's versatile: From gospel numbers like Bill Withers' "Grandma's Hands" to classics of every variety—"Green, Green Grass of Home" (which found a youngish blond fan waving a Welsh flag throughout), unrequited-love waltz "Delilah," hot 'n' bothered rave-up "Sex Bomb," aching ballad "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" and "It's Not Unusual"—Jones makes sure you're anything but bored.
5. He's honest: It doesn't get much more straightforward than the lyrics to Earl Thomas' "Git Me Some," which Jones called a "downhome—no wait, sexy" blues number: "Don't want to be your best friend...truth be told/ I only want to get me some."
6. He's aware of his own shortcomings: Sure, Tom Jones has plenty going for him: a robust, striking and emotive voice, a warm and earnest smile, a James Bond theme under his belt ("Thunderball"). And he was once pretty cute—bodified hair; big, dreamy eyes; Welsh accent; pimped-out Vegas style. But this husband of over 50 years knows he can be a handful, too (as any ladies' man can). Last Thursday, when he sang, "She can take what I dish out" during "She's a Lady," he followed it by quipping matter-of-factly, "And that's not easy." Musically, at least, it ain't that hard, either.