Sunday at Jazz Fest




The underwear started flying about seven to eight songs into Tom Jones' set, when he started singing "Delilah." Jones smiled and nodded when he caught a glimpse of the first pair to land near him. The flurry was strongest during that tune and almost as heavy later when he sang "It's Not Unusual." And a a few pairs never made it to the stage, instead falling short and crashing into the VIP pit, which just seemed sad.

On a day with a lot of big headliners in the final slots (John Mellencamp, Arlo Guthrie, John Legend and the Roots, The Decemberists and, I guess, Kenny G), Jones delivered for the festgoers who chose the Gentilly Stage. Even past the age of 70, he's as suave and cocky as ever, and his signature deep voice is no worse for the wear. He sang some of his old hits (though many were disappointed he didn't do "What's New Pussycat" or "She's a Lady."), some blues, some country tunes ("Green Green Grass of Home") and then a few surprises. Perhaps "St. James Infirmary" wasn't a stretch, and Prince's "Kiss" was to be expected, but you know Jones is comfortable in his skin when he does "Hey Pocky Way" as his encore, and not only that but tells the audience what its part is to sing.

I caught a few moments of other late sets. John Mellencamp's voice was grumbling and scratchy, and it seemed like his band was doing a lot of heavy lifting for him on guitar and vocals. He opened with "Authority Song," and it didn't have the youthful swagger it carried when he recorded it in the 1980s. He then sang "No One Cares About Me," which is about a guy who's lost his wife, family and job, and the chorus endlessly repeats "No one cares about me, no one cares about me/ No one cares about me at all," and it seemed like the right time to slip away from the Acura Stage.

There were better moments at Acura during Dr. John's set. He played "Tipitina," played some guitar and even worked a little gris gris from his piano-top altar of accoutrements. Dave Bartholomew joined him on trumpet for a few songs, which was warmly received.

Also warmly received was a guest appearance in the Jazz Tent. Terence Blanchard and his band were working through fairly recent material, such as compositions off of Choices, when he interrupted to bring out his soon to be 14-year-old daughter, named after Sydney Bechet (who was honored at Jazz Fest just weeks before she was born). Though he joined her late in the song, she mostly played a solo piano piece for the crowd.

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