You and Yanni
Ups and downs - with a sense of direction
By Rasmi Simhan -- Bee Arts Critic
Yanni might top the Billboard charts in the New Age category - but don't tell him so.
"People have this image of me with crystals, incense ...," he said in a teleconference Monday. "That isn't true. Anybody who comes out to see a show will realize that."
Yanni will perform at Arco Arena on Saturday, the day before he turns 50. And he has plenty to celebrate. In more than two decades as a musician, he's earned several platinum records and played around the world - including the Taj Mahal and the Acropolis.
He said he feels no need to be trendy, joking that he wasn't about to dye his flowing hair blue and "start jumping up and down trying to get attention."
"My audience has stayed with me over the years and has seen me through the electronic era, hip-hop, dance, techno," he said. "They're still supporting me, letting me do my thing, and it is wonderful."
Success came fairly quickly for the self-taught keyboardist and composer. He had parted ways with a St. Paul rock band in the mid-'80s. (It played Lynyrd Skynyrd and Aerosmith covers, along with original music.) Six months later, Yanni had his own contract.
But trouble would hit in 1998 after his breakup with actress Linda Evans, his companion of nine years. Normally he would have disappeared into his recording studio for two months. Instead, he fled to his parents' home in Kalamata, a small fishing village in Greece. Deeply depressed, he went for long walks with his father and didn't touch the piano for a year, he said Monday.
His sister, meanwhile, forwarded him a few fan letters.
"At that moment I felt my life had meaning," he said. "I did something for people, or someone in this city changed their life when they heard one of my songs or one of my albums."
The majority of Yanni's songs on his 13 albums are instrumental. He said lyrics would make his music less "pure."
"Speech stimulates the brain in different ways than pure melody and rhythm," said Yanni, who studied psychology at University of Minnesota.
His goal: "Communicate emotion."
"I can go into a room, focus, be honest, create something and have a few million people around the world connect to it," he said. "That's a thrill."
His current tour will yield a live album from his stop in Las Vegas.