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  1. #1

    Johnny Mathis, San Diego CA, Sunday September 22, 2019

    Seeing Johnny Mathis for the first time in concert was everything I expected and so much more. It turned out to be an experience I will always treasure. A week shy of his 84th birthday (September 30th) the man looks great and sounds wonderful, he has obviously taken great care with his instrument. As a long time fan I expected he would sound good, especially for his age. But I was not quite prepared for how good he sounded period! It was impressive. The notes he could hit, the energy he could summon, his phrasing and the natural volume of his voice were all head-shakingly awesome.

    Mathis performed here in San Diego at Copley Symphony Hall an intimate (2,500) venue. Copley Hall is a classic old theatre (the Fox) that was saved when the rest of the block was leveled to make way for a high rise. The tower was eventually constructed around the theatre, which when restored became home to the San Diego Symphony. Copley is known for its excellent acoustics, it was the perfect place to see Mathis.

    The two-hour show was divided into three parts, first a roughly 45 minute set with Johnny, the 25 piece orchestra, and his rhythm section. Followed by a solo comedy and song set by a member of the entourage and long time Mathis friend (don’t remember his name, my bad) and a 20 minute intermission. Then Johnny, the orchestra and rhythm section returned for a second 45 minute set that also included Johnny singing accompanied by only the guitarist (”Yesterday” “You And Me Against The World” “Beware My Foolish Heart”).

    During the intermission all you heard was people saying how great he sounded. It was a pretty lively and vocal audience (old and young), lavishing Johnny with much appreciation and affection. The atmosphere was very congenial, even familial, with signature songs like “The Twelfth Of Never” eliciting unabashed swoons of delight from audience members.

    Johnny as always was the consummate gentleman and very unassuming. At the beginning of each of his sets he simply walked onto the stage unannounced and started singing. Mathis enjoys what he does, and it shows, he was having a great time. He was warm, friendly and seemingly very at ease with himself sharing antidotes, etc. Mathis is class personified.

    Other songs on the program:
    All the hits were there “It’s Not For Me To Say” “Chances Are” “Gina” “Wonderful! Wonderful!” “Wild Is The Wind” “A Certain Smile” “Misty” etc. Some surprises like “I'm On The Outside Looking In” “Betcha By Golly Wow”, some standards like “Stranger In Paradise” “Secret Love” “When I Fall In Love”. A segment devoted to Henry Mancini (“Days Of Wine And Roses” “Charade” “Moon River” others). He closed with a Brazilian segment that included “Mas Que Nada”. The encore was Louis Jordan’s “Let The Good Times Roll” during which most of the audience was up and dancing.

    Full circle note:
    My affection for Johnny's music started when I was very young, around six. My mom was crazy on Mathis and the “Heavenly” and “Johnny’s Greatest Hits” albums were always in heavy rotation. She also had a stack of his singles on the dark red and gold Columbia label. Mom went to a Mathis concert here in San Diego around '62/'63 (I would have been about 12). She kept the hand-out program sheet for the evening and the program book that was on sale in the lobby as mementoes. After she passed, they became mine.

    I took the book with me to the concert on the outside chance I might get to meet Mathis and have him autograph it, and maybe even tell him the story behind it. That didn’t happen. But I did get a wall of a man on Johnny’s security team to take the book to him during the intermission. The book was promptly returned to me after the show was over, signed by Mathis. Mom would have got a kick out of that.

  2. #2
    Soph, am so very glad you finally got to see Johnny Mathis in concert for the first time, and also had your book signed.

    He must surely rank among the music industry's greatest names.

  3. #3
    Great review.

    I saw Johnny last year and his presentation was much like what you described. If anything, he sounds even better than he did in his youth.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by westgrandboulevard View Post
    Soph, am so very glad you finally got to see Johnny Mathis in concert for the first time, and also had your book signed.

    He must surely rank among the music industry's greatest names.
    Thank you West. Yes, Mathis rates high among the all-time greats. His career spans over six decades and he still sounds great. In that I'd say he's peerless.

  5. #5
    He is still doing it! Amazing!

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    Great review.

    I saw Johnny last year and his presentation was much like what you described. If anything, he sounds even better than he did in his youth.
    Thank you Reese. Johnny is awesome.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    He is still doing it! Amazing!
    Yes Marv, Johnny is amazing!

  8. #8
    Sunday night Johnny also sang "Let It Be Me" and "Shenandoah" from his 2010 album "Mathis In Nashville".

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by sophisticated_soul View Post
    Sunday night Johnny also sang "Let It Be Me" and "Shenandoah" from his 2010 album "Mathis In Nashville".
    Did Johnny do TOO MUCH, TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE? He didn't perform that when I saw him and it was the only disappointment of the evening. I was rather surprised that he didn't sing his biggest hit.

    In years past, he used to use a tape of Deniece Williams' vocals when he performed it. On one of his PBS specials, what he thought was the tape started playing and then Deniece came out to surprise him.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    Did Johnny do TOO MUCH, TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE? He didn't perform that when I saw him and it was the only disappointment of the evening. I was rather surprised that he didn't sing his biggest hit.

    In years past, he used to use a tape of Deniece Williams' vocals when he performed it. On one of his PBS specials, what he thought was the tape started playing and then Deniece came out to surprise him.
    No Reese, Johnny did not do "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late" when I saw him either. It crossed my mind that he might do a solo version but no. The song I wanted to here most "The Twelfth Of Never" he did do. Another song I now remember he did that night was "Baubles, Bangles And Beads". What a night!

  11. #11
    @sophisticated_soul a/k/a Joseph (I think)?

    Do you remember we met at the Scherrie and Susaye show at the hotel near LAX, their first show after all those years?

    I have loved Johnny Mathis for years, at least since I was old enough not to care if he was considered "hip" or not. When I was young and listening to Motown and Parliament/Funkadelic, you couldn't have caught me dead listening to Mathis. But now, I love him, as I do many other acts I thought I was too cool for back then (such as the Carpenters and the list could go on and on).

    I'm wondering about what you said about his voice. I have always thought his voice so well preserved, and attributed it to healthy living. I believe Mathis has always been a non-smoker, and not a heavy drinker or druggie at all. But on his last album - the album of standards "Performs the Great American Songbook" - I found his voice quite changed. Do you agree? I'd like to know your opinion. I was very disappointed in the recent album as to me he sounded so different.

    Besides Mathis, the only other male singer who I have found whose voice is virtually unchanged since their glory years is Little Anthony. Hearing him on that PBS special which was produced by our friend TJ Lubinsky was inspiring. I couldn't tell a difference in his voice at all from the 60s!

    Speaking of Scherrie and Susaye, I've got to have them mentioned as well. Their voices sound unchanged as well from the 70s. Absolutely flawless and pitch perfect, both times I saw them perform.

    But please share your opinion about Mathis' voice and recent album. I'm anxious to hear what you think.

  12. #12
    Thank you for your response, Kenneth. Yes, I definitely remember you from both S&S concerts. We were so fortunate to have seen them at all, let alone twice, and to meet the ladies as well. Good times.

    Regarding “Sings The Great New American Songbook”. The first time I played “Sings” I noted a marked difference in his voice versus his last studio album “Let It Be Me – Mathis In Nashville” released in 2010. His voice sounded strained in some places and the music was often overly loud. At the time I remember thinking something like ‘well he is 82 nobody’s voice last forever’.

    But there was also something about the overall recording that sounded too loud to me. I attributed it to studio processing, maybe to enhance his vocals. Some of the recordings work very well; I love “Blue Ain’t Your Color” and “Happy”. But on songs like “Hello” the music is too loud while he seems to be straining against it to reach the note. It seemed to me at the time that his voiced had deteriorated quite a bit in seven years.

    That’s what was all the more amazing seeing him live. He sounded way better live than he does on “Sings”. I don’t get it. His voice was as strong live as it is on “Mathis In Nashville”. It’s interesting to note that he sang two songs from “Mathis In Nashvile” when I saw him in concert and none from the more recent “Sings”.

  13. #13
    @sophisticated, thanks so much for the additional thoughts and your perspective on Johnny's recent output. I really appreciate it. It is very interesting that he didn't perform any of the recent album's songs. I'm going to seek out "Mathis in Nashville." That definitely sounds worth checking out.

    Thanks again and hope to see you again at a Scherrie and Susaye concert!

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    @sophisticated, thanks so much for the additional thoughts and your perspective on Johnny's recent output. I really appreciate it. It is very interesting that he didn't perform any of the recent album's songs. I'm going to seek out "Mathis in Nashville." That definitely sounds worth checking out.

    Thanks again and hope to see you again at a Scherrie and Susaye concert!
    That's a great thought, I'd love to see the ladies again! Yes, check out "Mathis In Nashville". I play it often, way more than "Sings". BTW, yes I am JOsEph.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by sophisticated_soul View Post
    That's a great thought, I'd love to see the ladies again! Yes, check out "Mathis In Nashville". I play it often, way more than "Sings". BTW, yes I am JOsEph.
    Thanks Joseph. I'm glad my memory served me well in this instance.

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