Fri, November 26, 2004
COLIN MACLEAN, EDMONTON SUN FREELANCE
If you think the music of John Tesh belongs in an elevator - if the appeal of Sarah Brightman, Michael Bolton or any Irish tenor on stage anywhere, anytime, is beyond understanding then you can go back to your Metallica collection - you didn't miss a thing you wanted to see last night when proto-Greek god Yanni took the stage at Rexall Place.
Yanni is an ex-rock musician who rode the surge of electronica and New Wave into public consciousness some 20 years ago. While New Wave left a bad aftertaste and receded, Yanni, he of the modest nature, Tom Selleck good looks, flowing locks and impeccable musicianship, bounded past his roots to create his own niche. And what a niche - he has sold 10 million records, is one of the most successful road acts in the world and his video Live at the Acropolis has raised a reported $12 million for PBS. His music is now required at Olympic Games and other international sports events.
Yanni (Chryssamalis), dressed in simple back pants and grey sweater, bounded on stage last night at Rexall Place to a clap of thunder that surely came from Mount Olympus itself. A jolt of electricity zapped the place. Bathed in the spotlight stolidly behind his bank of keyboards or moving fluidly about the stage with more hair flips than Britney, he was a commanding presence for the entire concert. Often his left hand would pump out the bass while his right seemingly plucked tunes from the air. His music can be categorized, I suppose, as electro-pop, but it quickly reaches a near-hypnotic state with its thundering beat, cathedral chords and simple melodies that play much better in a live setting than it does on CD. In keeping with his world-music reputation, he was backed up by an orchestra of 35 or so peppered with soloists of astonishing musical depth. Before the evening was over, we heard Australian aboriginal instruments, ethereal obligatos, full-bore operatic voices, numerous synthesizers and strings, a Chinese flute, a hammer dulcimer, and four harps played by a musical United Nations.
The Greek piano man brings with him enough smoke and mirrors to compete with the biggest rock shows on the road. There is a spectacular video presentation to go with the music with three huge screens, and cameras swooping and zooming over the audience. The result is pure spectacle with the screens providing a more intimate bird's-eye view of the performers.
And what performers! He may be centre stage but Yanni is a courtly host giving full credit in a series of low-key but gracious introductions to some very impressive backup musicians. The Australian aboriginal instrument, the didgeridoo, was featured in a friendly but rousing duel with Yanni's percussionist, Charlie Adams, who is a show-stopper himself. At one point, Adams left his enormous drum rig at the back of the stage, and after a bit of banter with the maestro, sailed into a tight drum solo, centre stage on a smaller kit that, time and again, brought the audience to ecstatic applause.
One could go into the delights of the various musicians as they took centre stage for their solos but each one was better than the last.
I doubt if there was anyone in the hall who was not impressed, even overcome, by the laid-back charm of Yanni and the drama and musicianship he brought to Rexall Place. It was a very satisfying evening. As I'm writing this, all 5,000 patrons are on their feet cheering.
Even a Metallica fan would approve.