Tom Jones at Hard Rock Live in Orlando, FL

Located in the center of Universal Orlando’s CityWalk, Hard Rock Live welcomed Welsh singer Tom Jones for a night of music and dancing.

Tom Jones‘ Ages and Stages US Tour began earlier this Spring in Los Angeles, CA before making its way south and stopping in Florida for an impressive four shows in the state. While this tour features no supporting acts, the full set clocks in at a hearty two hours and features classic hits from the 50s on.

As the posted 8 PM show time approached, venue attendants led guests down the aisles and to their assigned sections. The main floor, often used as standing room only, was filled with rows of seats stretching from the stage back to the bar. Two more levels of balcony seating contributed to a theater-like ambiance. The set design on stage was simple, with a stool and microphone front and center and two raised platforms for the drums and keyboard. A large screen covering the back wall shone bright with the striking blue album artwork of Surrounded By Time, Jones’ most recent cover album released in 2021. During the show, graphics and intriguing video effects unique to each song would appear on the screen and enhance the production.

At approximately 8:15 PM, the lights dimmed to black and Jones was led out to the center of the stage. Live video appeared on the back screen ensuring every seat in the venue had a clear view of the singer as Jones began the first song, a stripped-back cover of Bobby Cole’s “I’m Growing Old.” This opening track introduced themes of life, death, and reflection that would persist throughout the set. Covers including “Tower of Song” and “One Hell of a Life” were among the heavier ones that delved into these topics, but lighter-toned crowd pleasers including “Sex Bomb” and “Delilah” helped to keep spirits high. After another cover, this time Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet,” Jones treated the crowd to two of his most recognizable and popular hits, “It’s Not Unusual” and “What’s New, Pussycat?” With only four original songs on the 21-track setlist, it was surprising that two of them were played back-to-back so early on.

Jones interspersed stories throughout the set, introducing specific covers with first-hand accounts of times with the original artists or other notable figures in music history. The singer spoke of joining Elvis Presley to watch Chuck Berry perform in Vegas and of his last conversation with Jerry Lee Lewis. When transitioning into a cover of Willie Nelson’s “Across The Borderline,” Jones talked about his experience recently performing at Nelson’s 90th birthday, a two-day long celebration that lasts so long, apparently, because the singer isn’t sure of which his birth date is. These anecdotes added a truly interesting and entertaining touch, coming from the perspective of someone who has been at the heart of music through such integral times.

A cover of Prince’s “Kiss” had the whole room on their feet; those in the front row of seats had migrated to the floor directly in front of the stage, dancing along. Immediately upon the song’s end, a standing ovation rang through the venue as Jones and the band made their way off stage. Cheers turned to chants for “one more song” and it didn’t take long for the musicians to reappear and play an encore of three songs: “One Hell of a Life,” “Strange Things Happening Every Day,” and “Johnny B. Goode.” The upbeat end again had everyone out of their seats as the band lined up with Jones at the front of the stage. The singer thanked and introduced each band member before turning to the crowd. “We’ve had a great time and hope you have too.” The audience’s reaction said it all, cheers and screams let Jones know they did.

TOM JONES
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HARD ROCK LIVE
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About Courtney Thomassen 8 Articles
After spending years as an avid fan of music and photography, Courtney's separate interests became a singular passion in the summer of 2021. Ever since that first concert post-lockdown, she has strived to capture the nights worth remembering. There is nothing that beats the rush of live music, but being able to relive that time through photographs sure comes close.