Live Review: Yanni at the Erwin Center
By V. M. Black | Monday, June 15, 2009, 03:35 PM
Some local musicians are going to have a hard time coming to terms with this fact, but Yanni’s big band is tighter than 99.9% of the bands in Austin.
Friday night at the Erwin Center, the formerly mustachio’ed Greek pianist Yanni (born Yannis Chrysomalis) entertained thousands at the Theatre at the Erwin Center, coolly, confidently directing some stellar musicians as they performed songs from his 30-plus year career.
The show opened with a nod to Yanni’s most historic performance locations with images of the Acropolis, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China projected on translucent scrims surrounding the stage.
After the trance-inducing instrumental opening, Yanni emerged to deafening applause, surrounded by an orchestra featuring more than 10 stringed instruments, horns, harp, guitar, keyboards, drums and percussion.
The “Yanni Voices” tour (named after his recent album) is by far the most accessible music Yanni has ever created. His ethereal and classically-influenced instrumental songs were reinterpreted and updated with lyrics penned and performed by four young vocalists: Nathan Pacheco, Leslie Mills, Ender Thomas and 20-year old dynamo dancer/vocalist Chloe.
This tour was different than anything Yanni’s ever done. He rarely took solos, instead providing a background soundscape as he directed the remarkable musicians and vocalists that brought his band to life.
Some of the melodies were memorable - “Change” and “Before the Night Ends” - but the blocking, choreography and featured musician solos created the show-stopping moments. Yanni’s first and second chair violists, Samvel Yervinyan and Ann Marie Calhoun, stole several portions of the concert during their solos and their violin duals.
The stage show’s sexiness was undeniable. All four gorgeous vocalists delivered blush-inducing dancing — vocalist Chloe even took a turn with an interpretive, sensual writhe atop Yanni’s grand piano which was nothing less than an aural and visual aphrodisiac.
Although Yanni got lumped into New Age category he came to nearly define years ago, the self-depreciating band leader threatens to break out from this enormous pigeonhole with this tour. And if there is an enormous rise in middle-aged adults having late-in-life children 9 months from now, blame Yanni.