Johnny Mathis

Johnny Mathis• Voice Of Romance Tour•May 19, 2023• Eccles Theater

Reviewed and Photographed by Alisha Gregson

On Friday, May 19th, the legendary Johnny Mathis spent an evening serenading a theater full of his adoring fans. The 87-year-old icon brought his Voice Of Romance tour to Salt Lake City’s Eccles Theater. With 67 years of experience as a musical entertainer, Mathis knows what it takes to impress a crowd. The audience was mostly made up of an older generation that arrived excited to hear nostalgic songs of the past. With his smooth tenor voice that has somehow remained as powerful as ever, Mathis transported his fans back in time.

Photo Credit: Alisha Gregson

To just about anyone over 60, Johnny Mathis needs no introduction. As Columbia Records’ longest-running recording artist, he has spent a lifetime dedicated to his music and massive fan base. Growing up both musically and athletically talented, he found himself at a crossroads at the age of 19. In 1956, in the very same week he was invited to compete in the Olympic Game Trials, he was also offered a contract with Columbia Records. The young Johnny Mathis ultimately gave up what could have been an opportunity to compete in the Olympics, and went all in with his musical career. While his decision may have kept him from a chance to bring home a gold medal, his many albums that reached gold, and platinum status confirmed he took the right path. 

After just 2 years with Columbia, Johnny Mathis released an album that started a new trend in the music industry that is still going strong today. His 1958 album, Johnny’s Greatest Hits was the first of its kind. It started the ongoing tradition of “Greatest Hits” albums. Over the years his hard work has paid off and he has had a successful career. Mathis has sold over 350 million records worldwide. 73 of his albums made it to the Billboard top album charts. He has also received 5 Grammy nominations, been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for 3 songs, and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Even after all his accomplishments, his current tour is evidence that Johnny Mathis has no intentions of slowing down. 

Set 1

A large orchestra filled the stage at Eccles Theater. With just minutes left before the concert was set to begin, music filled the room as they played. Guests made their way to their seats. The crowd erupted in applause when a bright spotlight illuminated Johnny Mathis. The light followed him as he walked to the center of the stage. With the same charisma he had in his 20’s, Mathis smiled at the crowd and began to sing, “When I Fall in Love.” From the very first note, he had the audience captivated. He only made it a line or 2 into the song before someone yelled, “I love you!”

I was surrounded by quite a few older couples, some of whom had been together for over 50 years. Those who hoped to hear the songs they fell in love with so many years ago, would not be disappointed. Johnny Mathis curated a setlist that covered a wide range of covers as well as his original hits. While a few of his songs were in medley form, he impressively sang 34 songs, mostly love ballads. During the first half of his set, Mathis pleased the crowd with some of his hits, “It’s Not For Me To Say,” “Chances Are,” and “Gina”. He ended his first set with a medley of 6 different Henry Mancini songs, saving my favorite, “Moon River” for last.

Brad Upton & Intermission

If the concert ended after his first set I would have still left feeling satisfied after an incredible performance. Luckily the night was far from over. After Johnny Mathis and the orchestra walked off stage, comedian Brad Upton stepped out to entertain the crowd. Keeping the age of his audience in mind, most of his jokes were geared toward the older generations. I was too young to fully relate to most of his jokes and too old to be offended by his mocking of Gen Z. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed his act and I laughed the entire time. While a stand-up comedy routine felt a little out of place in the middle of all the love songs, it was a lot of fun and was a hit with the crowd. Brad Upton’s performance was followed by a 20-minute intermission, and then it was back to the show!

Set 2

Now dressed in a new black suit, Johnny Mathis returned to the stage. He began the second half of the concert with some old Broadway songs. First up was “April in Paris” from the musical Walk a Little Faster.  It was followed by “Sands of Time,” “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads,” and “Strangers in Paradise,” all from the 1953 Broadway musical, Kismet. His Broadway portion was a lot of fun. He continued with some other popular covers, like Doris Day’s “Secret Love,” and one of my favorite Beatles songs, “Yesterday.” 

Mathis saved his biggest hits for the second half, and the crowd cheered loudest when he began “Wonderful! Wonderful!,” “Misty,” and “The Twelfth of Never.” As the night was coming to an end, Mathis sang a medley of 3 Brazilian songs, “Mas Que Nada,” “Manha de Carnaval,” and “Aquararela do Brazil.” Still full of energy, Mathis playfully danced around the stage as he began to sing his final song of the night. His cover of “Let The Good Times Roll” by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five was the perfect way to end the show. It led to a well-deserved standing ovation. 

Photo Credit: Alisha Gregson

Johnny Mathis is truly a legend. Somehow he still has just as much passion as he did when he first began entertaining crowds almost 70 years ago. His unwavering talent and charisma make his shows a delight. Mathis’ fans left Eccles Theater in awe after a wonderful night.

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