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The case for Yanni: Greek composer/musician charms diverse baby boomer crowd

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Yanni, August 2012
Yanni has a close bond with his audience. Photo by Jane Howze
Yanni, August 2012
Yanni shows how he can play two instruments at once Photo by Jane Howze
Yanni, August 2012
Yanni and his 15-piece orchestra ended the North American leg of their world tour in Houston. Photo by Jane Howze
Charlie Adams, Yanni, August 2012
Drummer Charlie Adams wore a Texas T-shirt during a five-minute drum solo Photo by Jane Howze
Yanni, August 2012
Yanni, August 2012
Yanni, August 2012
Charlie Adams, Yanni, August 2012

As sure as night follows day and the temperatures climb above 90 every August, you can count on New Age musician Yanni, or as he might prefer to be called, “international concert artist," coming to a city near you. Such was the case Sunday night as he and his 15-person world orchestra pulled into Houston on the final stop on the North American leg of his world tour.

Filling nearly all of the 2,900 seats at Jones Hall, Yanni and his world-class musicians delighted those in the audience, a multi-national group whose average age seemed to be north of 40.

Admittedly, I am an enthusiastic Yanni fan, though like many relationships, my affection has ebbed and flowed over the years. First introduced to Yanni’s music through California friends as a means to quiet the mind from a stressful work life, I watched as he exploded into global prominence after his appearance on Oprah with then-girlfriend, Dynasty television star Linda Evans, and as his award winning DVD, Yanni Live at the Acropolis, became the second-best-selling music video of all time and a PBS pledge drive favorite.

 Admittedly, I am an enthusiastic Yanni fan though, like many relationships, my affection has ebbed and flowed over the years.

 I have been to countless concerts, bought every CD, and witnessed his less than successful (in my opinion) attempts to turn his beautiful instrumentals into vocal arrangements.

But enough about the past. Today, Yanni is still the dashing Greek though, at age 57, he is not the young stud some may remember. Sporting much shorter hair and without his famous moustache, Yanni  wore a black T-shirt and white pants and shoes that looked a bit like orderly garb. He split his time bouncing energetically between a shining Yamaha acoustic piano and a bank of two electronic keyboards.

After watching Yanni perform for the last 20 years in larger venues, the more intimate nature of Jones Hall was a welcome change. But with the smaller venue came a more sedate audience. Most 50-something year-olds don’t hoot and holler and throw underwear on stage. But whether Yanni performs for 300 or 30,000, he gives his all. With the familiar toss of his mane, closed eyes and a blissful smile, he launched into songs ranging from his first hit right through songs from his most recent studio CD, Truth of Touch, released in 2011.

Yanni gave a shout out to Houston as “part of my home,” and while introducing End of August, he jokingly said, “I wrote this in 1986….I was about three years old.” As is his custom, he brought a virtual United Nations of ultra-talented, clean cut musicians, some of whom have been with him for decades. During his two-hour concert, Yanni and his orchestra treated the audience to such favorites as Nightingale, One Man’s Dream, Santorini, The Storm, Felitsia and many more.

And as is typical of Yanni, he spoke of the need to be positive and that love is the driving force. This is what we have come to expect of Yanni. It is who he is and what he sells.  And of course, it is true. 

Sure, there will always be people who say Yanni is cheesy and his music all sounds the same.  But you could not have convinced one of the most culturally diverse audiences I’ve seen at a Houston concert of that. 

All of the talented musicians received enthusiastic applause, but longtime drummer Charlie Adams won the crowd over as he appeared in a Houston Texans’ T-shirt before launching into a stunning five-minute drum solo of Marching Season. 

As the concert rounded third base, Yanni launched into the well-known Niki Nana (We're One) which is guaranteed to get an audience on its feet clapping and singing, “Let’s dance and shout." Yet while everyone was clearly enjoying the song, the first three rows and many in the audience stayed resolutely seated. Yanni and his two talented vocalists were not having any of that, and through the will of his personality, they got the audience on its feet. And we didn’t mind at all.

Sure, there will always be people who say Yanni is cheesy and his music all sounds the same.  But you could not have convinced one of the most culturally diverse audiences I’ve seen at a Houston concert of that.  As for me, I still find the tunes positive and soothing—just like an old friend.

And for those fans that missed him this trip, do not worry.  As sure as night follows day, Yanni will return.  And that is a good thing.

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