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Welcome to My World
By Ann Morrow

Pepsi Arena, Jan. 25

Considering that the performer is known for being rather full of himself, it may be odd to hear that the one thing that Yanni’s live extravaganza could’ve used more of was . . . Yanni. Tuesday at the Pepsi, Yanni’s World Tour amply delivered on the worldly part: Most of the two-dozen-or-so members of his orchestra come from the far corners of the globe, and are undoubtedly the cream of their respective crops. And even more than usual, Yanni was a gracious host, giving several of his associates ample time in the spotlight to strut their respective stuff. But no matter how accomplished Yanni’s present company—and more than a few of them, such as Armenian violinist Samvel Yervinyan, were absolutely magnificent—it’s Yanni that the demographic-busting crowd came to see.

Don’t get me wrong: The new-age composer was front and center the whole time, switching between electric keys and piano, and introducing songs with coyly modest references to his record-breaking concerts (and videos) at the Acropolis in Greece and the Forbidden City in China. But as the two-hour performance motored along, the focus wandered from Yanni’s undeniably pretty melodies and chimerical invocations of atmosphere and became merely a skillful exercise in crowd pleasing. Around the time of his exuberant area debut at the Pepsi in 1998, Yanni became known for world-music flamboyance, and now, in the wake of his Ethnicity release, he’s gone overboard with the concept (one didgeridoo solo is fun, two is overkill). The composer also seemed uncharacteristically subdued, perhaps the result of nearly three years of continual touring. Gone were the wind and fog machines that once billowed his hair and open shirt, and only once did he throw his head back in his inimitable, wild-stallion mane toss.

Even so, the show hit several high peaks; among them the contributions of woodwinds master Pedro Eustache. The lead soloist on The Passion of the Christ soundtrack, Eustache was the guiding light for the evening’s most atmospheric interludes, including the ever-popular “Nightingale” centered on his Chinese flute. His virtuosity was rivaled only by Yervinyan’s, who dueted with Eustache on doodook for a haunting Armenian lament that received a lengthy round of applause. Also adding to Yanni’s worldly mood music was a mercurial ditty played on hammered dulcimer, the rhythmic backbeat provided by an extensive congas kit, and the lilt of a Paraguayan harp. Older songs such as “Standing in Motion,” and the glistening piano ballad “Nostalgia” fared better than newer material, especially those selections from Ethnicity that leaned toward urban pop.

Although the crowd ate it up, the long, showboating drum solo during “Marching Season” from Charlie Adams came off as filler, albeit entertaining filler—Adams has the face of a comedian and knows how to work it. Later, a calculatedly show-stopping R&B number featuring soprano Alfreda Gerald left Yanni all but forgotten. Yanni’s electronica forays (for which the keyboardist is a natural) of the late ’90s were much more promising, augmenting rather than eclipsing his talent for evocative soundscapes. Crossing over to hip vocal music is one world conquest that no one really wants him to make.

It’s No Secret

photo :Joe Putrock

The Secret Machines rocked out at Revolution Hall last Friday (Jan. 28) as part of the first leg of their current 32-date U.S. tour. The Dallas-based band released their major-label debut, Now Here Is Nowhere, last May to critical acclaim—the album ended up on a bunch of year-end lists and had many critics declaring them a band to watch. Openers for the Secret Machines were Moving Units and Autolux.




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