Running from June 5-23, Hampton Court Palace Festival this year played host to acts including Lionel Ritchie, Jools Holland, Gary Barlow and Tom Jones. SUZANNE HORLER attended the Welsh star’s show on June 22.
Tom Jones has been performing on stage since 1963, the year I was born… and yet Friday was the first opportunity I have had in 54 years to hear and see him live.
My first Tom Jones concert and my first visit to Hampton Court Palace. Like the majority of concert-goers, at heart I am a fan who just wanted to see Tom Jones in his element.
My husband came along out of sheer curiosity — what did Tom Jones, now 78, have that he did not? But for me this was a bigger package: The picnic, the venue, atmosphere.
So on Friday afternoon with my definitely better half we headed to Hampton Court Palace, arriving just as the gardens opened.
It was a glorious evening, the grounds were stunning and we could not imagine a better place for a picnic before the concert began.
We spread our blanket out under one of the magnificent yew trees and watched people arrive. This is one of my favourite occupations alongside garden walkabouts — I am that sort of inquisitive person.
We were surrounded by people of our age and I was relieved to see that I was absolutely appropriately dressed and even more reassuringly so was my husband.
I heeded previous advice from my daughter that double denim was just cool enough.
So, feeling suitably dressed for the occasion and having eaten our picnic among like minded people, we wandered round the gardens, admired the fountains, the river, the family of swans and sipped champagne in the beautiful setting before going in to the palace, through corridors and courtyards until we reached the auditorium.
This sat 3,000 people — very intimate compared to the stadium concerts we had been to in the past.
The stage filled the width of the open walled courtyard and the raised seating filled the depth. Surrounded by elaborate chimneys and turrets on the rooftops, to me this was perfect. Big enough for a real concert, intimate enough to feel the atmosphere.
So the show started. Just like that, Tom walked on to the stage and the songs began. Tom’s voice was unbelievable. Strong, deep and incredibly powerful. He sang blues, gospel, rock and roll, including some new and lots of the oldies. He told us stories and laughed with the audience, who came alive singing along and dancing to ‘Sex Bomb’, ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ and the old classic, ‘Delilah’.
But the real unexpected highlight for me was his rendition of Kiss originally by Prince but Tom’s version on Friday night was incredible.
I can’t truly tell you if Tom Jones hit the right notes or his musicians were technically good but I can tell you for me it was a fabulous evening.
I enjoyed the atmosphere, the venue, the audience. Above all it was fun.
We laughed, we joined in, and as we drove back home to the south coast we really felt so lucky to have been able to enjoy Tom Jones.