Dynamic Yanni concert anything but a yawn BY JOHN NEMO Special to the Pioneer Press
I can't believe I'm saying this, but ï¿½ Yanni rocks!
The 48-year-old composer/keyboardist credited with making New Age music mega-popular in the 1980s and '90s swept into town Friday, putting on a concert for 9,843 inside the Xcel Energy Center.
And in a sentence that will surely make my mother say, "I told you so," I'm here to admit something I never thought I'd write: Yanni's music was so creative and dynamic that after hearing his songs I wished I'd listened to something more than the likes of Guns N' Roses and Pearl Jam growing up.
With a small and incredibly talented orchestra backing him, the Greek native came bounding onstage around 9 p.m. wearing black leather pants and a black dress shirt.
As the lights went down and the music began, Yanni alternated between playing several keyboards stacked atop one another and a grand piano as he ran the orchestra through its paces. Demonstrating why Yanni's songs have such worldwide appeal, the instrumentals seemed to come from all over the globe, with Eastern influences sprinkled among more classical-sounding violins and trumpets, along with enough dazzling percussion and drum work to keep any rock fan happy.
Yanni is in the midst of his first tour since 1998, when he took a self-imposed exile for a few years to recover from nonstop performing and recording. Now he's back, complete with his new autobiography, "Yanni in Words," and a new studio CD, "Ethnicity."
"It's great to be back home, here in the Twin Cities," he told the audience. "It's been a long time. Too long, as a matter of fact. I won't do it again."
Yanni, who was born in Greece, came to the United States when he enrolled at the University of Minnesota, from which he received a psychology degree in 1976. Since releasing his first record in 1980, Yanni has sold more than 20 million albums and become a massive presence worldwide.
Friday's show featured something Yanni hasn't really done in the past ï¿½ lyrics and vocals. But even then, the pair of female singers onstage was used mostly to accent the powerful instrumentals, though each woman ï¿½ like nearly everyone else on stage ï¿½ was given some solo time to shine as well.
Conducting from his keyboards, Yanni led the orchestra through nearly two hours of music. With a gigantic stage, row upon row of colored lights and three enormous television screens that alternated between live shots of the show and videos of beautiful outdoor scenery, it felt like watching a concert in the biggest living room on the planet.
The music seemed to alternately soothe and invigorate the audience, prompting one woman to say during intermission, "I think the answer to world peace is Yanni."
That might be overstating things a bit, but Yanni did put on the kind of performance Friday that people couldn't help but leave feeling good about.