Having already conquered the Acropolis in Greece, India’s Taj Mahal, and China’s Forbidden City on previous excursions, Greek-born New Age guru Yanni Chryssomallis now sets his wide sights on his adopted U.S., with a monstrous 2.5-hour touring production that makes up for in musical zeal and ambition what it lacks in distinction and accomplishment.
Surprisingly short on spectacle or extravagance, show was focused squarely on the multitude of slick musicians, particularly the haughty Yanni, whose patronizing attitude and too-rehearsed style made for a unfulfilling program. Often he’d acknowledge a soloist from behind his keyboards by waving to them and mimicking their instrument in a way that smacked of condescension.
Further, Yanni and his troupe don’t play to the people so much as they fawned to the ever-present video cameras, leaving the audience members to feel as if they were at a TV taping.
Ever the ambitious dilettante, Yanni strives to bring together ancient instruments with modern technology, often with unintended results. When a musician in aboriginal Australian garb opened a song by playing the revered didgeridoo, he hopped about on one foot, waving to the camera that dangled in front of his made-up face, revealing a marked lack of respect for his instrument.
The musical selections comprised bits and pieces of seemingly all the world’s musical styles, but captured little of the essence of the genres. Recollections of Mozart, Wagner and John Williams, for example, were melded with strains of salsa and would-be soundtrack themes, making for a puzzling and often distasteful sonic stew.
But the long evening wasn’t completely without achievement. The beautiful “Nightingale,” which Yanni said was the result of his getting music lessons from birds, was a breath of fresh air during show’s second half. Featuring wind player Pedro Eustache on Chinese flute, the uplifting number had all the promise of a bright new day, a rare moment at a Yanni show.