Legendary hit master David Foster has a pretty big ego, which is OK with me because it’s justified. Foster’s musical genius is the driving force behind dozens of pop hits enjoyed over the last four decades, by artists like Chaka Kahn, Michael Bublé, Jennifer Holliday, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Josh Groban, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Andrea Bocelli.
It’s only been in the last decade or so that Foster has decided to take the stage himself, and the entertainment world is all the better for it.
A few days ago at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto, the Grammy Award-winning writer / arranger / producer opened his 2020 Hitman Tour and reminded a standing-room-only audience of his prodigious gifts. During a two-hour show, Foster drifted effortlessly between favorites like “Through The Fire,” “And I Am Telling You” (from Dreamgirls), “Power Of Love,” “I Will Always Love You” (From The Bodyguard),“After The Love Is Gone,” and “The Prayer.”
All of those hits, and almost everything else performed during the sold-out concert, required a world-class, multi-octave voice. And Foster’s show delivered, over and over again.
The voice just wasn’t his.
More accurately, the voices weren’t his. A trio of masterful vocalists filled in for the likes of Houston, Dion, Bocelli, and Bublé. That was no small feat, but the singers were more than up to the challenge.
One of them, Pia Toscano, stunningly out sang Dion on “All By Myself” during an unexpected, mesmerizing mash up of that tune and Groban’s “You Raise Me Up.” Toscano had last wow’d northern California with Bocelli at San Francisco’s Chase Center during the holidays.
My mention of Foster’s ego warrants repeating: the man exudes bravado. But you’d have to be confident to share the stage, night after night, with talents like his support cast.
Speaking of that team, Foster’s special guest star, wife Katharine McPhee, displayed a wry sense of humor to compliment her stunning smile and tremendous pipes. She opened her set with a tongue-in-cheek “You Make Me Feel So Young” before silencing the audience with a pitch-perfect version of “Over The Rainbow” from The Wizard Of Oz. Judy Garland had left this earth before I was up and running, but I can’t imagine the legend ever sang that classic better than McPhee did.
Another of the show’s highlights came when two audience members were plucked from the audience to sing with Foster. Both of those performances made me a little nervous, as I wondered whether Foster attracted great singers so well that even people who buy tickets to his concerts have phenomenal voices.
Foster and company wrapped things up with one of his first hits, Cheryl Lynn’s “Got To Be Real” before taking quick bows and leaving the Gallo Center audience begging for an encore. He delivered, giving us a brief glimpse of what he might have looked like at the very beginning of his career.
Yes, there’s a little snow on Foster’s roof and a wrinkle or two adorning his still-handsome, 70 year old face. But when Foster sat at the piano under a single spotlight, and played a tune from his upcoming album of piano solos, he probably looked a little like the boy who used to practice piano in Canada, hoping to be an international star someday.
Half a billion records later, Foster’s still got it. And last week, Modesto got to hear it.