Expect the unexpected. This is what I learned at the Yanni concert last night.
As I approached the Civic Theatre in downtown San Diego last night, I started seeing flocks of Yanni concert goers and I could’t help but feel a little overwhelmed and definitely out of place with my Zappa t-shirt, black tights, and army boots. Feeling noticeably underdressed I did what any other photographer would have done, I reached in my bag and pulled out my version of a Chanel purse, my Canon Mark III, and my Canon 70-200 lens and let my camera guide me. I headed to the will call window to pick up my press pass which I immediately stickered on my shirt feeling like I needed a reason to stand out like I did. I nervously made my way through the door clinging on to my camera and down the aisle to the front of the stage, I stayed off to the side a bit -crowd watching.
I saw a few of the groups I saw out front with very nice gowns and wine glasses in hand. But as the minutes passed I started noticing families too. Young couples in jeans and t-shirts, and a couple of guys who seemed to have come by themselves. I noticed the ushers up front looking at the guests, a younger usher started giggling saying, “I bet that kid will fall asleep halfway through the show, I would never bring my kids to a show like this, it would be too much for them.” I had to say I agreed with them at first, in my defense my daughter slept through a Rage Against the Machine concert.
Then the lights dimmed and the brass section came out, followed by percussion, violins, and cellos, the keyboardist, and a man on the harp, and I started to think that this was going to be bigger than anything I had ever seen. I turned my head briefly and stared in awe at this beautiful theatre now filled to the brim and I heard women shouting, men were screaming out Yanni’s name in uncontrollable anticipation for the night yet to come, -something I wasn’t expecting in a theatre crowd but left me happily surprised.
And then Yanni took over the stage and I mean it literally. From the second he stepped onto the stage he owned it. He mesmerized the audience which stood still and wide-eyed. Running in to greet his fans, his contagious smile seemed the perfect opening note to set the tone for the show to come.
As the audience quieted down he danced back and forth from the piano to the keyboard, regally demanding full attention as his music filled the air. Delicate and regal getting more and more vibrant with each song. Yanni is an undeniable talent that rises beyond musical genre and definition. Words seem unfit to explain what an amazing experience his concert was. A production larger than life that is made personal both by the artist’s interactions with his “loud and trouble making fans,” as he jokingly called them and even more so by the stories he used to introduce his songs and explain what the inspiration behind them or depict a particular instance of his life he framed into a particular song.
While throughout the performance the spotlight was definitely on Yanni what stood out was the eloquent interaction between his piano and keyboard and of course, the rest of the orchestra. A playful vivid exchange of notes in perfect harmony which allowed all the musicians to both fit in and fully stand out. Yanni and his orchestra managed to accomplish what I always thought was a mission impossible: they gutted classical music and infused it with pure and raw power that completely blurred the lines that have always separated classical music and rock music.
As Yanni introduced the song “ Nightingale” he explained how the sound of a nightingale (inspiration of the song) puts all other birds to shame with its beautiful and delicate singing. All I could think was how the artist himself could put most contemporary musicians to shame with both his insane talent and his visible humble nature.
The man was playing a sold out high-end theatre and somehow from the moment he took stage I felt as he was playing directly to me in my living room. He engaged and put at ease every person in that room and took each and everyone of us around the world with him from the Venetian Lagoon that inspired “Nightingale,” to the small street of Greece in the springtime with “The Last Moment,” to the Peruvian jungle thanks to the extremely talented percussionist.
Another moment that caught my ears was the bass solo which made me jump out of my seat. From the first note Gabriel Vivas (Venezuela) played, he took the spotlight and literally rocked out!!! I mean he could take on the heaviest of bands and give any other bass player a run for their lives.
Also a highlight of the evening was Samvel Yervinyan (Armenia) with his breathtaking and somehow sullen violin which brought tears to my eyes and of course the insane talent of Charlie Adams (Illinois) on drums which the audience, myself included, couldn’t get enough of.
Ultimately what made the concert an experience was watching a stage full of amazing musicians who have probably been performing all of their lives still play with so much pleasure, admiration for one another, and joy. It was heartwarming and humbling to watch them perform. All I have left to say is that Yanni should start a “Yanni Against the World Tour” and take on so-to-speak contemporary rock bands. They have the talent to win and it would give even the most skeptical hard rocker a reason to attend, not to say I wouldn’t pay top dollars to see Yanni Vs. Metallica.
Tour dates are here so you don’t have to take my word for it, go check Yanni out for yourself, you will be happily surprised!
Yanni’s insanely talented orchestra:
– Charlie Adams – Drums
– Gabriel Vivas – Bass
– Samvel Yervinyan – Violin
– Benedict Brydern – Violin
– Jason Carder – Trumpet
-Yoel Del Sol – Percussion
– Victor Espinola – Harp
-Ming Freeman – Keyboards
-Lauren Jelencovich – vocals
-Lisa Lavie – Vocals
-James Mattos – French Horns
-Sarah O’Brien – Cello
-Mary Simpson – Violin
-Dana Teboe – Trombone
-Alexander Zhiroff – Cello