May 20, 2011
Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
Grand Prairie, TX USA
Review by Ron Redden
Photos by Jamie Miller
There is soul music, and then there is ‘soul’ music. It’s that chord, the one aimed at directly at the heart, the clean shaven Yanni so expertly touched this magical evening with a sold-out crowd in North Texas. The intimate theater setting couldn’t have been a better platform for this brilliant performer to ‘speak’ from with the incredible sounds he so expertly creates.
First and foremost, here's the challenge Yanni faces with every concert date he performs. This artist is most identified with his amazingly powerful 1994 live performance at the Acropolis in Athens. That particular PBS program was one of the top fundraising subjects the station ever had, raising $13 million in contributions. Sales of more than 750,000 home videos and 7 million albums were also achieved worldwide. The Live from the Acropolis album has almost continuously remained on the charts since its release, and is the second best-selling music video of all time. People sometimes forget that experience is not going to be duplicated when Yanni steps out on the stage with his uniquely talented orchestra in tow. Thankfully for this self-taught musician, his soothing, often times humorous banter with the crowd throughout a show, more than offsets any disappointment an audience may have.
Yanni was touring in support of his latest studio release, Truth of Touch. To be honest with you, if he hadn’t told the audience what music he was performing during his brief little tete-a-tetes, I’d never known what song was ever being played. But that’s the thing. You don’t go to these shows with high expectations. You attend the concerts to get lost in the moment. And that’s exactly what happened during this two-hour performance. Yes, I had seen the PBS specials where he performed in exotic locations like the Taj Mahal in India, the Forbidden City in China, and of course, the Acropolis in Athens. The thing is, if I closed my eyes while the songs soared throughout the theater, I could envision myself being in those locales while the orchestra played on.
Anyone who has ever attended a Yanni show will tell you it’s a very private, yet uplifting experience. In a sense, it’s a conversation without words only you fully understand. Can this music bring you to tears? Absolutely! Are the sounds at times hauntingly beautiful? Of course! The thing is, this show can be anything you want it to be. And that in itself is the beauty behind the incredible genius he displays on stage.
I will freely admit I’m not a Yanni-ophile. I cannot rattle off the names of past hits he has had. There’s no way I could tell you the vocalists that have graced the stages with him, or the great musicians that have performed in his orchestra. There’s no way I can wax philosophically about the meaning and intent of everything this guy does. What I do know is this. John Tesh opened for him one time, because my folks took me to the show. They thought it would knock some of that rock and roll nonsense out of me. (It didn’t happen). I also know Linda Evans was in love with him, but it ended badly (or with incredible sadness, pick your emotion) after almost ten years of bliss. Does this lack of real musical knowledge about Yiannis Hrysomallis make me any less appreciative of his enormous gift? Not in the least.
Again, the one thing I realized over and over again during this show is this undeniable point. Yanni’s gift of music literally speaks a language all its own to every single person attending the show. It’s like opera. You’re either going to fall in love your first time with it, or you will definitely hate it. This artist is the same way. If you have an emotional palette sensitive enough to soak in the ambiance his music creates, then this guy will speak to you in volumes.
It’s nice to know there’s music performed in the world today that doesn’t need an explanation by a critic like myself who’s fortunate enough to have a platform to reflect their thoughts. When an artist can create a sound that brings forth a smile, provokes thought and most of all makes you feel, then what more can you ask for? Not a damn thing! You know, I think I’ll send in a donation to PBS right now.