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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Johnny Mathis at the Majestic...

The very first time I went to the Majestic Theatre, I'm pretty sure it was to attend the symphony, I recall the beautiful music being more of a background; the senses are just overwhelmed by how incredible this theater is. If you have been more than a few times, you can catch yourself gawking at the intricate work above the stage and along the sides just long enough to look around at other people gawking and staring at all of the interesting and artistic details of the place.The ceiling genuinely looks like a starlit sky with occasional clouds floating by. Imagine the first time you went to a planetarium and the auditorium was transformed into space. This is much better.

I can't do justice in describing how wonderful this theater is; you have to experience it for yourself, at least once. But you can learn more about the Majestic and the embellishments that make it so beautiful at this web page by T.M. Battersby, the guy who helped revive the features of the theater.
So understanding my fascination with the place, when we received an invitation to attend the Johnny Mathis concert, it was especially nice that the concert would be at the Majestic. When we arrived for the concert, we used the valet parking. My wife and I remembered one of the last events we attended there, an elevator in the parking garage was malfunctioning. We ended up walking up a cold and rainy, narrow and crowded stairwell to get to our car. I didn't mind so much, but my wife was in heels. Suddenly the idea of valet parking seemed like a real treat! Just a note of caution: it takes a lot longer to receive your car after the show than it does to drop it off before the show. Lesson learned!

Our tickets specifically said no cameras/video/audio, so we showed up with me in nearly nekkid fashion without my trusty camera. I just assumed they would try to frisk me or something - hell, we didn't even attempt to sneak in a box of wine in my wife's purse. Anyway, I wish I had brought the camera because there was plenty to see before and after the concert.

We had never been into the Starlight Lounge before or out onto the outdoor terrace that overlooks Houston Street. I would have leaned over and yelled out to people waiting in line to get into the theater, but nobody in the crowd seemed to be the mardi gras type, and I didn't have any beads with me anyway!

We had perfect seats overlooking center stage and when the lights went down and the spotlight came on, Johnny Mathis walked out to a standing ovation and thunderous applause from the audience. At 73, he does not look his age. But in the back of my mind as he shyly accepted the appreciation of the people in the audience, I wondered if his age would have any factor in his ability to hit the notes. Johnny (we're on a first name basis, you know), thanked the crowd and spoke of his admiration for San Antonio and his love of the Majestic. Then, it was show time.

Even if you are not of the age that Johnny Mathis would have been in your album collection (those are the big vinyl things that played on turntables with needles), you will recognize his music and his unique voice from TV show appearances, movie soundtracks, and probably background music in the mall at Christmas.

If I or anyone else had doubts about his voice, they were soon dismissed. At the beginning of most songs, he would start out singing with little or no accompaniment from the wonderful orchestra. If you are someone who enjoys singing karaoke, this guy will make you want to turn in your microphone. At minimum, I am banning all Johnny Mathis songs from our karaoke collection because once you hear the man perform Chances Are, Misty or Its Not For Me to Say, in person, you will be forever humiliated by your incompetent attempts, and you will further know why people point at you and laugh. Suddenly, that scene in Fletch where Chevy Chase sings Moon River during a visit to the proctologist, isn't nearly the performance I thought it was all these years.

After his first set, Johnny introduced a golfing friend of his, comedian Gary Mule Deer, who came out and put on a great performance. What is with that name? He says "Gary Mule Deer isn't my real name. I had it legally changed from Elizabeth Mule Deer." The thing about his performance was, at least 90 percent of the material was made up from jokes I have received in my e-mail inbox. So even knowing the punchlines, this guy had a great delivery that left the audience in stitches. He would occasionaly walk away from the microphone and yell jokes into the crowd. Somehow, it all worked.

After a brief intermission and suit change, Johnny returned with another hour of hits and approval from the audience. My wife noted that he would move to the different sides of the stage for entire songs so he could sing directly to all members of the audience throughout the concert. Though he did not come equipped with back-up singers (something you rarely see with "older" acts these days, his pianist John Scott Lavender helped out where needed. Toward the end, he brought out long time guitarist Gil Reigers to accompany him The 12th of Never and several tunes including some Brazilian thing that was pretty lively.
When the concert was over, my wife and I headed for the long valet wait (I had to be up for work the next morning at 5:30) but our friends headed for the stage door to meet and take pictures. Something makes me think that maybe Johnny bought some boots while he was in town!

Anyway, it was a very enjoyable concert, in a truly remarkable theater. Whether Johnny Mathis is your cup of tea or not, if you live in San Antonio and have not found a reason to visit the Majestic Theatre, you are missing an imporatnt part of our history and of our culture.


AlanDP said...

I saw Stryper there back in the 80s. That's the only time I've ever been there.

Anonymous said...

Great review, I was lucky to be there and couldn't have said anything better!

Anonymous said...

Love the velvet voice of Johnny. I still have quite a few of the vinyls.
Brenty SC

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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