A Wonderful Evening With Yanni

In March, I happened to stumble upon the fact that Yanni was going to perform in San Diego. Yes, in proper San Diego; not in LA, not in Orange County or any other place nearby. Ticketmaster showed that the tickets would go on sale in a couple of days. Even though September was quite far away, I knew I was going to get tickets right away.

Yanni has touched a lot of people’s lives. And so there are quite a few of his fans among my friends. I called up a couple of them right away. While they liked Yanni, I honestly didn’t think they would agree on spending more than a hundred dollars for a concert six months away. And I was prepared for it actually. Prepared to attend the concert all by myself if it came to that. But thankfully, they were all in; and requested me to book a ‘+1’ each for their friends. And so I booked the tickets in March, within forty-eight hours of them going on sale.

The excitement was palpable on the perfect, scarlet San Diego evening. In a sea of well-dressed people, we stood outside the San Diego Civic Theatre, waiting for a friend to arrive. The friend, also a bandmate, was one of the ‘+1’s (friend’s friend) I mentioned earlier. A fact that reminded me how quickly things change in life.

The stage is set! Image from http://sandiegotheatres.org/press/

The stage is set! Courtesy: http://sandiegotheatres.org/press/

Out seats were in row M, the thirteenth row from the stage, in the Orchestra section. My first thought was how many people had booked their tickets before us, the moment they became available. But we were very happy with our seats. They were close to the center, slightly to the right (facing the stage). Despite not being an expert on the subject, I thought we were in a good spot acoustically. The theatre filled up quickly. We saw people carrying small wine glasses as they squeezed their way through the packed rows. The two balconies above had narrow, tapering arms that extended along the side of the theatre.

The stage was set. I was actually a little surprised to find that the curtains were not drawn. Yanni’s piano and keyboard station (I don’t know what else to call this large structure that contained eight keyboards!) were in the front, on stage level. A multi-level platform was raised behind them. On the first level we saw a line of chairs. Violins, cellos, horns, trumpets and harps were present. The second level had precession, bass, a large drum kit in the centre, and another keyboard station (with just six keyboards). A deep, dark blue light illuminated all of this.

8:00 PM. The house lights dimmed and went out. Showtime. A huge round of applause went up as the orchestra members appeared on stage from either side of the setup and started taking their positions. The stage lights were still dim, but I was able to recognize Samvel Yervinian (violin), Charlie Adams (drums), Ming Freeman (keyboards) and Victor Espinola (harp). The musicians took about a minute or so to adjust their positions and instruments, and started playing an intro music of sorts. And there he was, dressed in white; running from the stage entry at the back into the spotlight. As the intro music played Yanni ran on the stage, waving to the crowd and high-five-ing some of the people in the first row.

Amazing ambience and lighting, poor quality photo!

This was my view. Amazing ambience and lighting, poor quality photo!

And what an evening it was. Voyage, The End Of August, Marching Seasons. For Nightingale, Lauren Jelencovich accompanied Yanni. What a voice! I could not believe it was possible for a human being to hit such high notes! For Felitsa (‘mother’ in Greek), Yanni mentioned how the word love is overused in our daily lives. He went on to explain that there are twelve words for love in Greek, of different magnitudes. Felitsa was written by him for his mother, with love of the highest magnitude (I forgot the Greek word).

Of course, Samvel Yervinian blew us away with his violin solo. Yanni introduced him as the best violin player on earth twice, and it was clear why. Although having watched the Yanni Live! concert video (recorded at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas), I wasn’t surprised by the solo. The drum solo by Charlie Adams, however, was a huge surprise. For starters, it was a twenty-minute long solo! And a superb one! There were different sections of the solo, each having its own crescendo of sorts. And that guy knows how to please the crowd. Before the solo, he slipped into a San Diego Chargers jersey! Yanni mentioned that he wears a different shirt for every show on their world tour.

The songs went by quickly. It was just an amazing evening due to a (expected) legendary performance and a very loud crowd! Yanni came back on stage for two encores after bowing and leaving! Though I’m quite sure that was planned, it was nevertheless an amazing moment – the audience cheering, clapping and yelling for him to come back on stage.

A truly wonderful artist!

A truly wonderful artist! Courtesy: Yanni’s Official Facebook Page

Yanni has a ‘One world’ cause that he advocates quite passionately. He mentioned how music is something truly international and knows no boundaries. Yanni’s music is truly international I believe; one can pinpoint the multiple styles of music that have influenced him and yet it is hard to classify his music into a particular style. The record labels put it under ‘World’ or ‘New Age’ music. He waved at the orchestra and called them his mini-United Nations! Both NASA and the Russian Space Agency have allowed Yanni to visit their restricted areas and interact with the astro/cosmo-nauts. He mentioned how his music has never been censored in any country and how he wishes the man-made boundaries would just disappear, and the Earth would be just like how humans from space see it. “That is my dream”, he concluded and started playing One Man’s Dream, the last song of the evening. Magical stuff!

An amazing Saturday night. I wish it had gone on and on. Yanni promised he’s coming back to San Diego next year. This time I won’t wait forty-eight hours to book the tickets!

I would like to leave you with the song that introduced me to Yanni, and is one of my favorite Yanni tracks. Apologies, if Spotify is not available where you are.

– Omkar