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August 1, 2014

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Columnist Jerry Fink: Tom Jones turns Manhattan into a free-for-all

Jerry Fink's lounge column appears on Fridays. Reach him at [email protected] at (702) 259-4058.

For a while last weekend international singing legend Tom Jones was a lounge entertainer.

The lounge was at Manhattan of Las Vegas on East Flamingo Road. The occasion was a celebration of Jones' 62nd birthday.

Jones is in town through Wednesday, performing at MGM Grand's Hollywood Theatre. Fans pay about $80 to hear "The Voice" at MGM. They heard him for free at Manhattan.

Paul Mendoza, a friend of Jones' and owner of Manhattan, arranged the party that began at about 1 a.m. Sunday.

The place was packed with partiers who didn't mind staying up late to hear one of the best vocalists in the world. Jones' intense emotional renditions of such hits as "Delilah" and "I'll Never Love Again" should have earned him the title Prince of Wails.

Howie Gold (the lounge's resident entertainer) graciously conceded his spot in the limelight to Jones and a long list of entertainers on the starlit night.

Among the celebrities in the audience were Marlene Ricci and Jay (Neil Diamond) White, who have shows at Riviera's Le Bistro Theatre. Also on hand was Peter "Big Elvis" Vallee, who recently signed a year's contract to perform his weighty act at Barbary Coast.

After Jones finished his performance at MGM, he had dinner at Manhattan's restaurant with friends Clint Holmes (headliner at Harrah's) and singing impressionist Bob Anderson (starring in "The Main Event" at The Venetian).

While Jones dined, lounge patrons eagerly awaiting his appearance were treated to music by a mariachi band and a performance by vocalist/keyboardist Michael Shane.

Latina singing sensation Mariana G (her latest single is "Te Extrano") was the first to serenade Jones when he emerged from the dining room sometime after midnight. He was greeted by wild applause as he took a seat of honor at a table in front of a makeshift stage that covered the lounge's popular dance floor.

Violinist Olga Breeskin, a superstar in her native Mexico, seemed to enthrall Jones as he listened intently to her virtuoso violin performance. Breeskin co-stars with fiddle champion Johnny Potash in "Flying Fiddles" at the Fremont's new Aloha Cabaret.

Potash also portrays Charlie Daniels in "American Superstars" at Stratosphere. He joined Breeskin onstage during the early morning celebration.

Anderson and Holmes then took turns entertaining Jones and a crowd primed to party, Holmes with his signature jazz scat and Anderson with his singing impersonation of -- who else? -- Jones.

It took a little coaxing, but not a lot, to entice Jones to the stage. It was almost dawn. Some of the less-avid fans faded hours earlier and left. The many who remained were treated to a memorable performance, filled with electricity generated by a man who has been a sex symbol for four decades and who can still sing circles around performers half his age.

Watching the master perform in a simple lounge setting, sometimes with Holmes and Anderson as his backup singers, was an unforgettable experience.

Perhaps the evening was most memorable for Lorin Smith. The 50-year-old Las Vegas resident is a native of Wales. He grew up on Barry Island, about 20 miles from Jones' birthplace.

Smith has been an avid Jones fan most of his life, often singing "Green, Green Grass of Home" at parties. But he had never met his fellow countryman -- until Sunday morning in Manhattan's lounge, where he sat less than an arm's length from the artist.

Jones is still a remarkable vocalist. After 45 years in the business, his voice is as powerful and as expressive as it was in the '60s when he was turning out such gold records as "Help Yourself" and "Love Me Tonight."

One of the highlights of the evening, at least for me, was Anderson (in Jones' voice) joining Jones in a duet of the 1968 hit "I'll Never Fall in Love Again."

Jones performed about 10 songs, some of them from his lengthy repertoire ("What Am I Living For"), but many were ones he just enjoys singing (Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire," Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon" and Elvis Presley's "I'm All Shook Up").

For his final song, Jones chose "Green, Green Grass of Home." He dedicated it to Smith.

Smith beamed. He thought he had died and gone to Wales.

The entire room went along for the ride.

Lounging around

Blues guitarist/vocalist Deborah Coleman will be at Boulder Station's Railhead for the weekly Boulder Blues series Thursday. She will perform at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Coleman began playing with R&B and rock 'n' roll bands when she was 15. Six years later she attended a concert that featured Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker and was bitten by the blues bug.

Big-band fans should check out Carl Ladico at the Italian American Club (2333 E. Sahara Ave.) 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursdays.

Life of Brian: A couple of months ago Brian Duprey gave up his job as a pharmaceutical salesman in Rhode Island. He moved to Vegas to try to capitalize on the remarkable similarity between his singing voice and that of Frank Sinatra's. He performed a couple of times for free at Cappozzoli's Italian Restaurant and then was hired by Caesars Palace to appear at the Galleria Lounge. You can hear him there, at least through the end of this month.

Poppermost, a Las Vegas alternative pop/rock band, is putting the final touches on its first full-length CD. The group plans to host a CD release party at the Iowa Cafe on East Charleston Boulevard, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., July 12.

Catch Larry G. Jones at Fitzgeralds lounge. Jones is a Danny Gans-like impersonator who one day should have a showroom.

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