Johnny Mathis performed to a sold-out audience Sunday at the Palladium and demonstrated just why it is he has enjoyed the longevity of a legendary career that has spanned 57 years and is still going strong.
Still youthful looking, and with energy to match, the 77-year-old entertainer played to a worshipful crowd consisting primarily of silver-haired Boomers, who were in their youth while he was recording hit after hit during the peak of his career.
It didn’t matter that the Tony Awards were being broadcast at the same time as Mathis’ concert because these fans came to see and hear their musical idol transport them back in time. Judging from the reverential hush that fell over the audience each time he sang, as well as the rapture reflected on their faces, Mathis could do no wrong.
Mathis’ vocal powers may have diminished with age, but the distinctive mellow tone of his voice, his artful phrasing and his ability to translate lyrics to capture the emotional content of a song were still clearly evident. He also proved he is still among the very few who can expertly sing a romantic ballad to convey longing and yearning.
Mathis was led by his music director and pianist John Scott Lavender and joined by a full orchestra, consisting of a few of his own musicians and some local ones, for what was essentially a musical survey of his career.
During his Act 1 introductory comments, Mathis promised that he would sing many of the songs in his discography. To the great satisfaction of his audience he more than delivered as he sang such songs as “When I Fall in Love,” “Wild in the Wind,” “Wonderful! Wonderful!” and “To the Ends of the Earth.”
He also sang a couple of medleys in the first act. One included a string of Henry Mancini songs, consisting of “Two for the Road,” “Charade,” “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Moon River.” The other medley was made up of his own hits and included “It’s Not for Me to Say,” “Chances Are” and “Gina.”
Standup comedian Brad Upton turned out to be an unexpected treat after he was introduced by Mathis prior to the intermission. The affable Upton, a Seattle-based comic, kept the audience in gales of laughter with his topical humor throughout a brief set that included jokes about cell phones, kids and texting, Goodwill gift cards, hip hop song lyrics, Viagra, trail mix and married life in general.
“Pure Imagination,” which opened Act 2 of Mathis’ concert, was followed by another medley of songs that included “Bauble, Bangles and Beads,” “Strangers in Paradise” and “Secret Love.”
Poignant moments which showcased Mathis’ masterly ability to mesmerize his listeners were renditions of “A Certain Smile” and “Why Did I Choose You,” during which he was accompanied only by a piano.
The song that drew the most applause was “Misty,” during which Mathis was accompanied by the orchestra playing a lush arrangement that included the sound of swelling violins during the lyrics “A thousand violins began to play.”
Accompanied by his guitar player and production manager Gil Reigers, Mathis closed the show with a medley of dreamy Brazilian songs that included “Triste,” “Felicidade,” “Manha de Carnaval” and the exuberant “Brazil.”
Mathis, who throughout the concert turned his back on those seated in the house to play to those at the rear of the stage in the chorus section, once again acknowledged them and every other section in the Palladium as he took his bows to a sustained standing ovation.
Accompanied only by piano, he sang “You’ll Never Know” as his encore.
For tickets and information about the remainder of the Center for the Performing Arts 2012-2013 season, call the ticket office at (317) 843-3800 or visit www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.
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