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Concert Review By: Art Jackson
Johnny Mathis "The Christmas Show"
December 04, 2011 - Costa Mesa, CA
This is the time of year to not only reflect on the past but to also count our many blessings. I have received so many that it would be nearly impossible to name them all. But one recent blessing I received was the opportunity to not only listen to but also see Johnny Mathis live in concert. It was a great pleasure being able to witness such an iconic performer live on stage.
I couldn’t help but notice the crowd of patrons who converged on the Segerstrom Center, many of them in their 70s and 80s. This reminded me of the era of my youth. My parents collected Johnny Mathis albums, and would watch him on the many variety shows in which he would appear, such as the Ed Sullivan Show. But now, I am the fortunate one who gets to see him in person.
As soon as you walk into the Segerstrom Hall, you immediately notice the beautiful stage décor with its bright inviting colors and the 35 piece orchestra style seating arrangements. The atmosphere prepares you for the wonderful experience about to come. As the filled to capacity crowd settle in, the light goes down, and the orchestra begins performing a medley of Christmas cheer. Then entering, stage left, to the cheers of the adoring fans appears Mr. Mathis. He is casually dressed in a vest, jeans and snickers.
Although born in Texas, Johnny Mathis, grew up singing in San Francisco, CA. The active, 76 year-old entertainer, looks remarkable youthful as he glides around the stage effortlessly. As Johnny begins to sing some classics, such as, “Chestnut Roasting On An Opening Fire,” “It’s Beginning To Look A lot Like Christmas,” and “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,” he gets rounds of applause from the attentive fans at the beginning of each note.
Along with those Christmas tunes, Johnny also delighted the audience for about a hour with some of his greatest hits that spans over the six decades of his illustrious career. Some of these tunes include “Chances Are,” “Gina,” and his version of The Stylistics song, “You Make Me Feel Brand New”.
During the 30-minute intermission break, we were treated with the comic routine of Gary Mule Deer. He walks on stage dress similar to Johnny Cash, complete with guitar, but with a punk rocker semi-spike hairstyle. His first comment, “It sure is windy outside,” caused the audience to erupt with laughter which continued non-stop. “Grandpa, what’s the quickest way to the lake? Grandpa asked, are you walking or driving? Driving… Well that’s the quickest.” From time to time, he would walk away from the mic and yell one-liners to the crowd with thoughtful pondering questions…“What was the size of hail before they invented golf balls?” “If everyone in the world got together to hold hands two-thirds of us would drown”. “You Tube, Twitter and Facebook just merged and the new company name is You Twit Face”. It was refreshing to have nice, clean comic relief.
As the orchestra began to take their places again on stage, Gary's last great line was “What a thrill to have someone with the stature of Johnny Mathis to open and close my show.” The audience again erupted into applause and laughter, then Johnny appears as the two exchanged pleasantries.
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As the show continue, a more dapperly dressed Mr. Mathis, in a gray suit, white shirt and gray shoes performed more of his classics, such as “Strangers in Paradise,” “Misty,” “The Twelfth Of Never,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “Let It Be Me.” The title of his latest release in 2010, “Let It Be Me: Mathis in Nashville,” recently received a GRAMMY nomination for “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.” He even paid homage to Vince Guaraldi, composer of the “Peanuts Portraits” classic. As the orchestra played the theme, Johnny revealed to the audience that Vince was the one who helped Johnny create his first demo tape for Columbia Records.
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