Johnny Mathis – Schuster Performing Arts Center – 8/26/21

Legendary vocalist’s triumphant return to the concert stage

Johnny Mathis, photo by Kendra Peters

Johnny Mathis obviously loves to sing. He was all smiles as he hit the stage in his first performance since the pandemic broke out in 2020. Sporting a green jacket and white pants, he looked and sounded fantastic, especially for someone just days away from his 86th birthday.

Billed as the “65 Years of Romance Tour,” the first half of the show opened with a medley of his biggest ballads, like “It’s Not For Me to Say,” “Chances Are” and “Gina.”

He talked about all the fun he had touring with Henry Mancini before going into a series of the famous instrumentalist’s songs, finishing with a stellar version of “Moon River.” “Stranger in Paradise” was another highlight, along with the surprise Stylistics’ cover, “Betcha By Golly Wow.”

Let me tell you about his voice – still breathtaking, capable of soaring heights and vibrato. In fact, he sounded better on the ballads, which you’d think would be more difficult.

Comedian Brad Upton kept the “Boomer” jokes going while Mathis took a short break.

After intermission, Mathis returned, clad in a black tuxedo. Here, he stretched out more, turning in a bossa nova version of “My Foolish Heart,” before inviting guitarist Kerry Marx to sit with him upfront. While both men sat on stools, they did a phenomenal reading of “Yesterday.” The high point of the night was “Misty,” one of his most famous songs. Here, the orchestra really sparkled, adding the perfect backing while Mathis effortlessly nailed the notes.

While the evening had its share of mellow moments, Mathis kept things moving with a medley of foreign-language tunes, ending with a spirited “Brazil.” The evening came to a close with a rousing take on the Ray Charles’ hit “Let the Good Times Roll,” with the capacity crowd, clapping along.

Throughout the evening, Mathis would occasionally look up toward the heavens and smile. I think he was honestly just happy to be back singing for an audience. With Tony Bennett recently announcing his retirement, Johnny Mathis is perhaps the last of the great crooners. If you get the opportunity, go see this amazing singer. —Tony Peters