Yanni's coming to town, yeah!
(Updated Friday, November 12, 2004, 9:05 AM)
"Yanni is coming to Save Mart Center, would you go with me?"
My 15-year-old son, Kitchie, looked at me in astonishment.
"You've got to be kidding."
"It's November 16th. Your birthday. We could go out to dinner, catch the concert, have a great time. You play bass. He'll have a cool bass player."
"I can't believe you're asking me to go see Yanni on my birthday." "Please?"
"No! That's disturbing. A 15-year-old boy does not go to Yanni concerts ... especially with his mother."
Actually, there's not much of anything a 15-year-old boy wants to do with his mother. Sigh. I'll have to find someone else to go to the concert with.
I love my Yanni video of his 1994 concert in Greece: "Live at the Acropolis." Actually I bought the video last year for my daughter as a Christmas present. She's a pianist and I thought she would like it. But her reaction when she opened the present was disbelief.
"You got me Yanni?"
"What's wrong with Yanni?"
"He's old, Mom," said Lauren. "Really old."
What's with these kids? Yanni's cool. Long hair. Tall. Good looking. Greek.
He looks like an Achaean hero, with his flowing hair, who could pick up his sword and lead a band of warriors into battle against Troy.
The rest of the musicians are also epic-like. I get lost in wonder watching them, amazed at their talent. Against the backdrop of the Parthenon, they look like gods.
Yanni's video spotlights other individual performers. There is an incredible violin duet between a wiggling violinist in a saucy red dress and a distinguished-looking conductor. It is great fun to see the two violinists "getting down."
A lot of emotion flows between Yanni and his musicians. With the interplay between them, the concert has the feel of an improvised performance. He smiles and nods his head and the keyboardist seems to know just what he wants her to do. The drummer tosses his hair and plays with abandon. You get the feeling all of them are absolute best friends. Which, of course, must be true.
Then when you've listened to all these glorious instrumentals, and you think it can't get any better, two vocalists emerge. Their voices are so ethereal, you think you've died and gone to heaven.
Of course, my favorite moment is when Yanni plays a special song he wrote for his mother. The camera shows her in the audience, just beamingly proud of her son. The love between mother and son just jumps out of the screen. It's a good thing to see.
I like to think Yanni is a modern-day Vivaldi. Vivaldi was a happy man and his music was happy. I don't know much about Yanni's personal life, he's a very private man; but he seems happy. And his music is certainly happy.
Yanni makes me happy. When I get on a jag, I play my Yanni video over and over.
Periodically, my son emerges from his earphones and says with a smile, "Mom, turn off Yanni."
Which reminds me, I still need to get tickets.
November 15, 2004
Yanni is back and focused
By Michael Osegueda
Yes, even Yanni gets scared.
Even Yanni, a guy who has traveled the world, won Grammys and sold millions of albums of his world-influenced, rich instrumental music, can't stop from being afraid from time to time.
Case in point: Yanni was in Las Vegas on Nov. 6, the first night of his "Live" tour. The concert was being recorded for an upcoming TV special -- his first in seven years.
"I was really nervous," Yanni said a few days later on a media conference call. "It's scary because you get one shot at it." The laser beams and rolling cameras intensified the situation, making it more hectic than what he is used to, which is getting up there on stage and sharing his music with his loyal fan base.
That's what he'll do Tuesday at the Save Mart Center, when his tour stops without all the Vegas glamour.
Everything went well at the taping. Like it was supposed to. Fear discarded. But really, fear isn't anything that Yanni hasn't conquered in the past.
In 1998, he walked away from music, leaving a very successful career.
He was hurting. And he didn't know why.
"I'm as susceptible to human frailties and pain as everyone else in the world," Yanni says. Unceremoniously, he picked up and went back to Greece to stay with his parents in their small fishing village. "It was going from 500 mph for 20 years to standing still," says Yanni, who turned 50 on Sunday. "I wanted to wake up one morning and be happy for no reason instead of being in pain. And it took a few months."
He didn't touch the piano for a whole year. Instead, he took long walks with his father and went off to climb walls.
What changed his spirits was when his sister selected some fan letters and sent them to Yanni in Greece.
He wasn't sure whether he should read them.
"At one point I started opening them up, and I started reading what my music did for certain people, and it brought me to tears," Yanni says.
"Sometimes when you get lost and you're in the darkness, you don't think you're worth anything. At that moment in time, I felt my life had meaning. Look, there was someone whose life changed because of my music."
Now, Yanni is back -- as focused as ever, he says. He has his tour, where he's accompanied by a band of more than 25 players from all over the world.
He has the upcoming TV special and CD and DVD that will come along with it. He has his best-selling book, "Yanni in Words," which was released this year. And most importantly, he's once again content being Yanni.
"I have to keep growing," he says.