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Sir Tom Jones, a full-throated legend among legends, wasn't an obvious choice for a Tiny Desk concert. When we began the series last year, the goal was to bring in quieter, more intimate artists (Laura Gibson, Vic Chesnutt) who are often drowned out by the clinking glasses and chatter of the small clubs they usually play. When a publicist for Tom Jones contacted us and said the singer wanted to do a "Big Desk Concert" for us, the thought of Jones' rather substantial voice filling our office left us laughing... and dying to do it.
Tom Jones has done it all. He's sung pop, rock, show tunes, country, dance and techno. He's played every kind of venue, from the biggest stages in Vegas to, well, the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen. Now, more than 40 years after releasing his first album (What's New Pussycat?), Jones is looking to play for a different audience. He's currently touring the U.S. in support of his latest album, 24 Hours, playing smaller clubs and giving more intimate performances. His schedule recently brought him to the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., and he stopped by our offices before the show.
Our wing of NPR was packed with employees, friends and family when Jones showed up, everyone craning to get a good look. He took time to have his picture taken, repeatedly, and sign autographs. He was the consummate gentleman and utterly charming. At one point, Bob asked Jones whether he'd ever had an office job before. "No," Jones replied. "It makes me nervous just standing here."
It's hard to overstate how amazing it felt to sit next to Tom Jones as he belted out a handful of tunes for us. You could tell that everyone in the room was just in love with him. I don't think you had to be a fan of his music to appreciate what an incredibly gifted performer he his. We're grateful he took the time for this little show, and hope this video gives you an idea of how memorable it was for those lucky enough to be here.
For his tour, Jones is playing with a full band. But for the Tiny Desk set, he performed with Brian Monroney, his musical director since 1996 and a masterful guitarist.