LIVE: Yanni @ Proctors, 5/13/18

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Review by Mark Alexander Hudson

1994. An eventful year. Come with me, if you will, into the wayback machine…

Bill Clinton was president. Nixon died. So did Kurt Cobain. Nancy Kerrigan got her knee whacked. The World Cup was held here in the USA and was a huge success, apart from a final that was like watching paint dry.

I lived in Boston and worked as a music buyer for an upscale high street retailer. We sold a lot of CDs and VHS tapes. A LOT.

We mainly had an older demographic that bought stuff like The Beatles (Anthology series), the Three Tenors (on PBS-TV) and Yanni (also all over PBS). We sold a lot of Yanni. A LOT.

It’s 24 years later, and Yanni is now on his 25th anniversary tour of that PBS special, “Live at the Acropolis.” (It’s the 25th anniversary of the concert, which was actually recorded the year prior to its release). The subsequent CD and home video that came out in ’94 was so successful that John Tesh copied the entire concept with his Live at Red Rocks release a couple of years later, and even THAT sold like hot cakes!

Yanni comes bounding out onto the Proctors stage, and, dammit, he looks exactly the same – slim of build, long flowing mane of black hair, “Magnum P.I.” mustache. The years have not been as kind to me.

We then get around two hours of the music of Yanni – music that used to be called “new age.” That term has gone out of fashion, and the genre does not generate the same sales that the mid-’90s saw, but that matters little
to the sold-out crowd, who are rapt and enthusiastic throughout.

Yanni’s music basically consists of two types of composition – an upbeat stirring anthem, like something John Williams would write for a theme park, or a slow, dreamy piano piece, perfect for that romantic candlelit dinner
for two.

Every now and then Yanni throws in a vaguely techno groove to liven things up, and there are various echoes of his Greek heritage and some Middle Eastern flavorings among the predominately European light classical influences.

It’s all impeccably played by the multi-national “orchestra” assembled. They are Charlie Adams (drums), Jason Carder (trumpet), Yoel del Sol (percussion_, Lindsay Deutsch, Samvel Vervinyan & Benedict Bryden (violins), Ming Freeman (keyboards), Sarah O’Brien & Alexander Zhiroff (cellos), Dana Teboe (trombone), Gabriel Vivas (bass), James Mattos (French horn) and the seldom-used soprano Lauren Jelencovich.

Yanni himself flits between his grand piano and a rack of electric keyboards, although he leaves the trickier stuff to Freeman, preferring to stick to fairly simple piano parts and one-handed synth solos, all the while
conducting his musicians.

His banter is relaxed and affable, he knows he has the audience under his spell, although the interactions with bandmembers, where he encourages them to repeat certain difficult parts after the piece has ended, do go on a
bit.

Also overdone are some of the orchestra’s solos – we are soon well aware that the violinists can play crazy fast Gypsy runs, but after the sixth or seventh time, they get a little wearing.

The crowd doesn’t seem to mind at all.

Adams provides much needed comic relief, with his over-exaggerated expressions and Animal from “The Muppets”-like drumming style, arms flailing, mugging to the audience and jumping to his feet even during the simplest of
numbers. His solo spot towards the end of the evening is, however, genuinely impressive. His dexterous and driving double bass drum and floor tom tom work departs from the overall gentility of the set and would not be out of place in any classic rock stadium show.

The show comes to a rousing close, and the audience goes nuts as Yanni gracefully smiles in appreciation.

The man knows what he’s doing. After all, Live at the Acropolis is the second best selling music DVD of all time.

Yep, second only to Thriller.

But if he tours the 50th anniversary of this landmark in 25 years time and still looks the same, then there has to be a portrait of him hidden away in an attic somewhere.

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