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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 May, 2005, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Home town triumph for Tom Jones
Katherine Jenkins and Tom Jones

Tom Jones has staged a triumphant return to his home town of Pontypridd with an open-air concert for about 20,000 fans.

He performed hits from throughout his 40-year career to the crowds at Ynysangharad Park on Saturday night.

"Tom Jones in Ponty Park" marked his 65th birthday next week.

Police said there were no big problems. There were three arrests in the park - two for trying to supply drugs and one for being drunk and disorderly.

I will never forget it and it is most definitely a story to tell the grandchildren. Tom Jones in Ponty Park - magnificent
Concert-goer Meriel Oliver

It was a remarkable night, as Jones sang within a few hundred yards of Laura Street in Treforest, where he grew up honing one of the most distinctive voices in showbusiness.

It's a voice which has brought him consistent success and untold wealth over four decades, and it was still in fantastic fettle back where it all began.

Jones was greeted like a conquering hero as he appeared, dressed in lilac suit, studded black shirt and familiar cross medallion around his neck.

Tom Jones
The singer grew up a stone's throw away from the park
Naturally, his greatest hits wrought the loudest cheers, from the breakthrough number one It's Not Unusual, through to What's New Pussycat, Thunderball, and Delilah.

And - of course - Green, Green Grass of Home, with a nod of the head towards Laura Street as he reached the line... "The old house is still standing, though the paint is cracked and dry."

But the ecstatic reception for more recent songs - from Prince's Kiss to Sex Bomb and his Stereophonics duet Mama Told Me Not to Come - showed how he has won fans across the generations to stay at the top.

In between songs, Jones fondly recalled his visits to Ponty Park as a young boy and with his own son Mark, born when Tom Woodward was a teenager dreaming of stardom.

Massive birthday cake

Jones told the audience that his last concert in Ponty was on 30 June, 1964, at the White Hart pub with Tommy Scott and the Senators.

Tom Jones fans in Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd
Arise Sir Tom... or so these dedicated fans think, anyway
The next day he went to London, on 11 November he recorded It's Not Unusual, and on St David's Day 1965 it hit number one.

He spoke beforehand about how it would be a night for people from Ponty and the surrounding valleys, and the warm-up pushed all the right buttons.

Highlights from Wales' recent Grand Slam rugby win were shown, with recorded tributes to the singer from some players and well-known Welsh faces.

But some of these went down better than others: Pontypridd-born ex-international Neil Jenkins and former Stereophonics drummer Stuart Cable won wild cheers, while both First Minister Rhodri Morgan - another 65-year-old who told Jones that was no age to retire - and teenage singer Charlotte Church were booed.

He was as good as I expected. And very sexy
Fan Liz Cameron
There was, though, a warm welcome from both the star of the night and the crowd for Welsh classical singer Katherine Jenkins. She appeared after Green, Green Grass of Home to serenade him with happy birthday and to present him with a massive cake.

Liz Cameron
'Jones the Voice' lived up to fan Liz Cameron's highest hopes
Most of the crowd appeared to be local, and some women wore spare knickers over their jeans, ready to throw on stage. But one man, Claudio Pini, had travelled from Palma, Italy, to be there.

Claudio, aged 44 - and membership number 1,901 in the Tom Jones Appreciation Society - brought with him both his girlfriend and a beautiful 400 miniature pool table which he has been trying to present to him for some months.

Claudio was disappointed at failing to meet his idol to hand over the table, but this fan of 28 years was clearly not about to give up.

Other fans from closer to Tom's home were just as impressed with the show.

"I thought it was gwych (fantastic)," said Liz Cameron, aged 32, originally from Nantgarw, near Pontypridd, and now living in Cardiff.

Fan Meriel Oliver
'What a brilliant night': the verdict of Pontypridd fan Meriel Oliver
"He was as good as I expected. And very sexy."

Meriel Oliver, aged 26, from Trallwn, Pontypridd, said: "From a young age I've been aware of 'the importance of being Tom Jones'.

"I feel extremely glad to have seen him in the home town and very proud of him as he is in my opinion a true Welshman.

"What a brilliant night. I will never forget it and it is most definitely a story to tell the grandchildren. Tom Jones in Ponty Park - magnificent."

  • Police said the event went smoothly after people arrived early and used public transport.

    Chief Superintendent Brian Greaves said: "It seems that most concert-goers heeded our advice and made use of the park and ride facilities signposted from major roads, or shared lifts, so the anticipated road congestion in the town centre and on the A470 was avoided.

    "It did take some time to get everyone away after the show with 20,000 people all leaving at once, trying to get to the park and ride and relatives and friends trying to pick people up.

    "Luckily the delays weren't too long and the congestion was dealt with in about 45 minutes.

    "It was the first event of this kind in Pontypridd and the emergency services, the local authority and the organisers have learnt a great deal from the experience, which will help us to develop and improve any subsequent plan for events in the park."




  • SEE ALSO:
    Tom Jones' birthday homecoming
    23 Mar 05 |  South East Wales
    Tom drops trademark pants
    10 Mar 04 |  Wales
    Jones in top 10 pop rich list
    24 Apr 03 |  Wales


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