Concert Review: Johnny Mathis in Concert at Wolf Trap

Johnny Mathis. Photo courtesy of Wolf Trap.

You might be wondering what a guy who is 43 years old was doing going to a Johnny Mathis concert. I’ll tell you, he was really enjoying himself watching one of the best romantic singers to ever come down the pike.

Johnny Mathis is almost 77 years old and has been performing for 56 years. His “Johnny’s Greatest Hits” album was on Billboard’s album charts for 490 weeks. He has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame twice and has a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

His program consisted of plenty of his tried and true hits. Classics such as “Chances Are,” “It’s Not For Me To Say,” “Misty” (complete with signature high note), and my mom’s favorite “The Twelfth of Never” were just a few of the songs performed during the evening’s concert. While Mathis is primarily known as a crooner, he can also swing, as shown with “To The Ends of The Earth” and the Latin flavored “Brazil.” Other highlights included a Antonio Carlos Jobim medley and “99 Milles From L.A.” both which featured Mathis’s long time guitarist Gil Reigers.

No matter the style of song Mathis’s style is pure class and presented old school, which is something hardly ever seen today. At a time when singers usually carry two keyboard players, a drummer, and maybe a bass player, Mathis still performs with a 27-piece orchestra under the direction of conductor and pianist John Scott Lavender. Yes friends, there is a full string section with five reeds and six brass players. Oh, how sweet the sound!! Say what you will about Mathis singing the same songs that he has been singing for years, but somehow I can’t picture him singing any of our modern day material. Can you picture Mathis rapping or singing provacative lyrics? OY!!

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The big orchestra and Mathis’s old school approach to singing is so refreshing. You can understand the lyrics and everything. That’s more than can be said for many of today’s artists.

Oh, how sweet the sound!!

If there was anything wrong with this concert it might be comedian Brad Upton, who came on mid point in the first half of the show. I’m not saying I did not laugh at some of his material because I did. His jokes about text abbreviations and how his kids are stunned by the fact that people use to exist without cell phones were actually quite funny. However I did find as his act went on his material got a little inappropriate for the crowd he was playing to. I want to reiterate: I don’t think Upton is a bad comedian. I just think his style does not match the class of Johnny Mathis.

After 56 years performing Johnny Mathis still sounds as great if not better then when he started recording. His is a style of singer that we don’t have any more. There is no pretention about Johnny Mathis’s performing style. It’s just a man and his microphone putting over some of the best romantic music ever written. Maybe this is why my mom is remembered in her high school yearbook for “her undying adoration to Johnny Mathis.” Maybe this is why people still come to listen to him sing. Whatever the reason, Johnny Mathis is one of the best singers still working today. His style and class is always a treat and its “Wonderful Wonderful” to hear the songs again that made this man a recording legend.

Running Time: Two hours and ten minutes with a 20-minute intermission.

Johnny Mathis in Concert was a one night only event at Wolf Trap National Park For The Performing Arts Filene Center on July 20, 2012.

Click here a complete listing of upcoming events at Wolf Trap.

About Elliot Lanes

Elliot Lanes has been a professional stage manager/sound designer/board op for over 20 years. After relocating to Washington, DC from the New York City area and marrying the girl of his dreams Jennifer Perry, he has been privileged to work on productions at Theatre J, Synetic, Prince George's Community College and Studio Theater to name a few. He has contributed designs for many shows in the last three Capital Fringe Festivals, two of which garnered critical raves. He is also the creator of MD Theatre Guide's highly successful 'A Quick 5' column.