An impressive group of musicians lets Yanni just be Yanni
How the backups became the stars.
By Tom Szaroleta
Story updated at 4:04 AM on Sunday, Apr. 19, 2009http://www.jacksonville.com/en..._yanni_just_be_yanni
You have to give Yanni credit: He sure knows how to pick 'em.
The New Age musician, who performed Friday night at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, has always had a knack for choosing some of the finest musicians for his band, and that hasn't changed.
But this time out, Yanni has added a new dimension to his sound, courtesy of four young singers who have reinterpreted his old songs and added vocals to what had been elaborate instrumentals.
Nathan Pacheco, a native of Washington, sings most of his songs in Italian and he has a huge, operatic voice.
Leslie Mills of Kentucky brings a pop sound to Yanni's music. Her song "Theory of Everything" wouldn't be out of place on Top 40 radio, which is foreign territory for Yanni.
Ender Thomas is Venezuelan and sings in Spanish. Not that the ladies in the audience cared - cries of "I love you, Ender" could be heard throughout the night, even when he wasn't on stage.
And Chloe is a 20-year-old singing and dancing powerhouse from South Florida who slinks and shimmies around the stage like she's been doing it for decades.
The band - including a 10-piece string section, horns, percussion, two keyboard players and the best Paraguayan harp player you're likely to encounter in an arena show - is actually downsized from the last time Yanni played Jacksonville, in 2005. But there was still plenty of sound. Charlie Adams, who has been with Yanni for three decades, is surely the hardest-rocking drummer in New Age; and violinists Samvel Yervinyan and Ann Marie Calhoun stood toe-to-toe several times, swapping solos that ranged from neoclassical to hoedown.
At the center of it all is Yanni, who is no slouch on the keyboards, but spends as much of his effort directing the band as he does actually playing.
The sound was a little patchy in spots and the crowd was sparse - no one sat in the arena's upper deck and there were quite a few empty seats in the lower bowl - but the biggest downer of the night was the stage design. The show opened with images projected on a large sheer curtain that wrapped around the stage. Several times throughout the night, the curtain was lowered again and the band and singers performed behind it. It was dramatic, sure, but very distracting.