HUB CONCERT REVIEW: Johnny Mathis in Santa Rosa

HUB CONCERT REVIEW:  Johnny Mathis in Santa Rosa

By Michael P Coleman

I had an opportunity to witness a couple of miracles last night at the Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa.  The first was the venue itself.  I learned that, miraculously, most of the facility survived last year’s raging fires.  It’s truly a gem of a venue, and it was great to learn that audiences can continue to look forward to a variety of phenomenal performances by world-class entertainers. 

And it’s that’s not a perfect descriptor for the incomparable Johnny Mathis, who graced the stage there last night, I don’t know what is. 

In fact, Mathis’ performance, a part of his The Voice Of Romance tour, was the night’s second miracle.  The 82 year old legend appeared roughly half of his age as he effortlessly whipped through a two hour performance for an adoring, near capacity crowd. 

His voice was virtually unscathed by the ravages of time, and his boyish enthusiasm for his craft was infectious.  This was particularly surprising, as it’s easy for performers of his generation to appear bored as they traipse through static set lists, or performances that appear to be more cake walks that class acts. 

Not Mathis.  I’ve seen him in concert a half a dozen times in as many years, and guess what?  He’s presented a different show every time.  Last night, he charmingly started the show with an inspirational “Life Is A Song Worth Singing” from his sterling I’m Coming Home album, followed by a declaration worthy of someone who’s been giving us his unadulterated best for over 60 years. 

“We’re going to sing and play our hearts out tonight,” Mathis said, “and I’m going to sing a few songs that will prompt you to wonder ‘Where the heck did he find THAT one?’  But they’re all lovely songs that I love to sing, and I hope, somewhere along the way, you’ll find one or two that you enjoy.” 

One or two?  Is that modesty or what?  “It’s Not For Me To Say.”  “Chances Are.”  “99 Miles From LA.”  “Misty.”  “Gina.”  “Betcha By Golly Wow.”  “I’m Stone In Love With You.”  They were all there, along with a stunning, pitch-perfect version of The Beatles’ “Yesterday” that took on new urgency coming from the now-octogenarian and left his audience begging for more. 

If there was a disappointment to the night, it was that Mathis didn’t perform any songs from his most recent album, last year’s exceptional Johnny Mathis Sings The Great New American Songbook.  But frankly, after the decades of musical joy he’s brought to his millions of fans, Mathis has earned the right to sing whatever he wants to sing. 

“You ask how long I’ll love you / I’ll tell you true / Until the 12th of never / I’ll still be loving you,” Mathis beautifully sang, during one of the night’s many intimate moments.  He seemed to be singing directly to us, and I can absolutely assure you that everyone in that audience felt the same way about him. 

If you want to remember a musical era that’s largely in the rear view mirror, catch Johnny Mathis in concert.  And take someone you love — or someone you want to love — with you.

Information on Johnny Mathis is available at johnnymathis.com.  


 Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.