Johnny Mathis Triumphs At Home with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

Johnny Mathis Triumphs At Home with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

by Michael P Coleman

Mid-way through Friday night's sold-out performance with the San Francisco Symphony, Johnny Mathis graciously introduced the musicians and members of his band who, in his own words, "...make it possible for me to get up on stage every night."  As youthful as Mathis looked and sounded, I almost expected him to introduce H.G. Wells, as a time machine HAD to have been involved. 

The Symphony's conductor had generously hinted at what was to come as the lights dimmed.  "These Johnny Mathis concerts can get hot and heavy, so please only touch or hug or smooch someone you know," he joked, just before Mathis glided on stage and effortlessly sang a sublime version of "When I Fall In Love."  Appearing easily 25 younger than his 79 years,  Mathis held the audience firmly in his hand for the balance of the show as he showcased his still-strong, passionate voice and obvious love for performing. 

"It's Not For Me To Say", "Moon River", "Gina", "99 Miles From L.A.".  "The Twelfth Of Never"...they were all there and were perfectly executed, fondly reminding pop music fans of musical days that are mostly behind us.  While his voice is a shade huskier than it was when he debuted in 1956, Mathis has remarkably retained his vocal range along with his distinctive upper register that earned applause mid-way through another of his signature songs, "Chances Are".  

The show business veteran stunned the crowd with a brilliant medley of Brazilian classics, including the gorgeous "Carnival."  Mathis then waved and exited the stage, picking up gifts and flowers from many front-row fans along the way.  He quickly returned, delivering a gorgeous encore that was a fitting farewell from the industry veteran, "You'll Never Know".

The San Francisco Symphony was exceptional throughout, from their solo performances of compositions by John Williams and Rogers & Hammerstein that opened the show, and Mathis repeatedly called attention to their talents during the 90 minute performance.  But the star of the night was undeniably Mathis, who seemed genuinely moved by the numerous loving ovations from the audience. 

The legend told me that he never plans to retire, which is even more music to his fans' ears.  "I've never lost my enthusiasm," he said of recording and performing.  "I've met some of my vocal heroes along the way, and none of us wants to stop.  We want to be in a place where it's still fun and it's still meaningful, but the voice is a very, very delicate instrument, and some of us have retained it." 

Mathis certainly has. 

His current tour takes him all over the country as he prepares to celebrate his 60th anniversary as a recording artist next year.  If you'd like to remember an era when true talents sang expertly crafted pop songs, see Johnny Mathis live. 

CLICK HERE for upcoming Johnny Mathis tour dates.

Read The Hub's EXCLUSIVE interview with Johnny Mathis here

Michael P. Coleman is a Sacramento-based freelance writer.  Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twittter:  @ColemanMichaelP