Before Jon Landau famously proclaimed that he'd seen the future of rock and roll, and his name was Bruce Springsteen, the onetime Rolling Stone contributor saw no future in another rhythmically challenged, ham-fisted lady-killer. "Tom Jones will burn himself out because his ratio is wrong -- 25 percent art, 75 percent artifice," wrote Landau in 1972. But although this Welsh rarebit hasn't had a U.S. hit since his cover of Prince's "Kiss," produced by Art of Noise in 1988, Jones' artifice has proved as durable as any pop, from James Brown's R&B to James Bond theme songs -- both of which Jones has handled with aplomb.
Not that his performance at age 65 will be what it was in 1965, when the former Thomas John Woodward first pitched his tent in the cheerful terrain between oldies pop and poppy rock with his debut Top 40 hit, "It's Not Unusual." But Jones' huge 2002 boxed set proves that the singer has scattered gems across the decades as well as the stylistic gamut, and it culminates in selections from his 1999 album of covers, Reload, in which hip young collaborators from Robbie Williams to Portishead mostly stay out of the way of his beefy baritone. For most music fans, preserved artificiality may be no better over the long run than artificial preservatives, but for one night (or three), what's bad for you can be pretty great.