Johnny Mathis LIVE! at BergenPAC

Spotlight Central
Spotlight Central
Published in
6 min readMar 27, 2024

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By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

The packed auditorium at Englewood, NJ’s BergenPAC is bustling this Saturday, March 16, 2024 evening as music lovers await a Voice of Romance Tour concert by the legendary pop singer, Johnny Mathis.

The lights dim and guitarist Kerry Marx, bassist Ken Wild, percussionist Joe Lizama, and musical director/keyboardist John Scott Lavendar take their places on stage along with members of a large orchestra filled with string, woodwind, brass, and percussion players.

The crowd applauds as Mathis, 88, makes his way into the spotlight looking dapper in his white suit. Concertgoers swoon when they hear the timeless tenor croon his opening number, “When I Fall in Love.”

The phrasing, pitch, and control of this master singer capture the hearts of Mathis’ fans in the crowd who express their appreciation for his talent with enthusiastic applause.

With energy and power, Mathis delivers an upbeat performance of The Bee Gees’ “Morning of My Life,” accompanied by the orchestra led by Lavendar on the piano.

Mathis greets the crowd, declaring, “I’m blessed to have the most marvelous orchestra to play with!” adding, “Thank you for coming, I hope you have a good time!”

Here, he launches into a medley of his own hits including 1957’s “It’s Not for Me to Say,” where the lush orchestra accompanies his sweet clear voice; “Chances Are,” his 1957 smash which has audience members singing along and one audience member happily shouting out, “Go get ’em, Johnny!”; and 1962’s “Gina,” with an arrangement which features violin glissandos filling and complimenting Mathis’ expert diction and phrasing.

Tremelo strings add to the pop feel of his cover version of Little Anthony and the Imperial’s “I’m On the Outside (Looking In),” before Mathis provides a heartfelt and moving performance of his 1957 hit, “Wild is the Wind,” where he deftly interprets the number’s slow and haunting melody.

Following a unique arrangement of “Shenandoah,” Mathis’ crystal clear voice shines on The Everly Brothers’ “Let it Be Me,” a number which features background vocal harmony provided by Lavendar. Changing things up, Mathis shakes his hips as he and the rhythm section sail into “Let Go,” a bossa nova number which has him singing with style and power.

Mathis talks about his friendship with composer Henry Mancini prior to performing a medley of Mancini songs including the orchestral “Two for the Road”; a tune with a Spanish flair known as “Charade”; and the beautiful love ballad, “The Days of Wine and Roses,” where strings help Mathis to create a poignant aural masterpiece of note and nuance.

He continues his tribute to Mancini with the upbeat and percussive “Moment to Moment” before crooning Mancini’s classic “Moon River” with a rendition that inspires concertgoers to leap to their feet and applaud.

Mathis introduces the audience to comedian Brad Upton and leaves the stage as Upton entertains the crowd with jokes about topics as diverse as dating, cell phones, and compression socks.

Following a short intermission, Mathis and the orchestra open Act II with a medley of songs from Kismet including the romantic “Sands of Time,” the jaunty “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads,” and the mystical “Stranger in Paradise.”

Lavendar’s electronic keyboard underscores the orchestral arrangement of Mathis’ 1958 hit, “A Certain Smile,” where Johnny’s patented vibrato is on display for all to enjoy.

The crowd adores Mathis’ performance of his 1957 smash, “Wonderful! Wonderful!” where, at the conclusion, a fan delivers a bouquet of flowers which he graciously accepts. He follows up with an upbeat arrangement of The Stylistics’ “Betcha By Golly Wow” which also features a background harmony vocal by Lavendar.

The sweet sounds of strings fill the air on Mathis’ signature song, “Misty,” and the audience bursts into applause when he holds a note — soft and high and for what feels like several moments— before the arrangement concludes with an angelic harp coda.

Mathis invites guitarist Kerry Marx to the front of the stage for a series of songs including The Beatles’ “Yesterday”; a touching and poignant rendition of Helen Reddy’s “You and Me Against the World”; a jazzy orchestral version of “My Foolish Heart”; and an emotional and artistic arrangement of Albert Hammond’s “99 Miles from L.A.” which has Marx’s precision guitar fingerpicking contrasting with Mathis’ smooth and pleading vocal style.

Following his 1957 ballad, “The Twelfth of Never,” Mathis introduces his musical colleagues to the crowd. Sailing into an upbeat version of Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66’s “Mas Que Nada,” Mathis sings Luiz Bonfá’s “Manhã de Carnaval” before segueing into his final number — a tour de force performance of “Brazil (Aquarela do Brasil)” — where lights flash over the audience and the crowd rises for a well-deserved standing ovation.

Concluding with a jazzy encore of “Let the Good Times Roll,” Mathis has audience members on their feet, clapping and grooving along to this feel-good number before taking a bow and declaring, “I love you!” to the enraptured crowd.

Before the night is over, several concertgoers share their thoughts about Johnny Mathis’ Voice of Romance performance this evening. Remarks Ron from West Orange, NJ, “We’ve seen Johnny Mathis five or six times, and this has probably been our favorite time seeing him because even though he’s older, he’s still great! He did a good mix of songs tonight and the orchestra was wonderful.” His wife, Arlene, agrees, adding, “I’ve been a fan for 60 years, and, to me, he still looks as good as he did all those years ago. I enjoyed his show very much.”

Rocco from Staten Island declares, “I love Johnny — he’s still got it — he’s fantastic! I especially liked his Henry Mancini medley but, really, I loved everything he did,” prior to recalling, “I was 19 when I first heard Johnny Mathis sing. I was at Fort Devin in Massachusetts and after I heard ‘It’s Not For Me to Say,’ I sent my friend into Boston to buy me the record. I took it back home to Brooklyn where my father put it in the jukebox in his luncheonette, and it was a such a huge hit that, ever since, I’ve taken credit for introducing Johnny Mathis to Brooklyn!”

Barry from Old Tappan insists, “Johnny Mathis can’t sing a bad song — he’s tremendous! He has one of those voices that the moment you hear it, you know it’s him — plus I love the fact that when he sings, you can understand every word.” His wife, Jessica, concurs, explaining, “Johnny Mathis has one of the most distinctive voices out there and to sound so clear and with such perfect pitch and power at his age is just amazing,” prior to concluding, “He’s fabulous, he’s first rate, and he’s an icon!”

To learn more about Johnny Mathis, please go to johnnymathis.com. For information about upcoming performances at BergenPAC — including Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. with Darlene Love on April 15, Paul Anka’s Seven Decades Tour on June 3, and Engelbert Humperdinck’s The Last Waltz Tour on June 13 — please click on bergenpac.org.

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Spotlight Central
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