to My World
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.
photo :Joe Putrock
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.