Aftermath: Yanni at Toyota Center

Words like pageantry, wonderment, and spectacle aren't used very much in the Aftermath lexicon. It's hard to divvy out those special labels when we are covering bleeding dudes in bondage gear half-raping each other on stage, the weekly parade of washed-up alt-rock groups making another run at the brass ring, grizzled Americana crooners, or the indie flavor of the past five minutes.

Which brings us to why Aftermath found themselves sitting mere feet away from the singularly-monikered Yanni and his nearly two dozen strong orchestra of new age monolithic power, on a Saturday night.

Yanni isn't as divisive of an artist as the general population has perceived him to be. At one point in the past twenty years his name was as acidic as Nickelback and Creed are today. Shorthand for awful awful music. Yanni, along with Kenny G and John Tesh, were some sort of sick sadistic trio of sound that only a your mother would love.

Anyone thinking that obviously has not witnessed a two-hour Yanni show. The overwhelming oddity and virtuosity really has to be witnessed live. Aftermath has become a staunch proponent of the School of Not Knocking Things Until Trying Them as of late. And whoo boy, did we try Yanni.

The show began with the orchestra shrouded behind a massive sheer linen hanging from the top of the Toyota Center. Scenes of the Taj Mahal and other magical destinations were projected on them. The crowd seemed to go ape at every twist of the lights, with wives clutching husbands in silent anticipation, except for the occasional "Ah" or "Wow". It was like their very own weird kaleidoscope of color and music. Yanni appeared as giant shadow in the middle of the linen like a specter, with his singers making appearances onstage also like ghosts. Daresay, it was quasi-psyche and nearly druggy in it's overt trippiness.

The whole thing was giggle inducing for Aftermath. The raw earnestness was something we don't get around to seeing much and it was new thing to witness. Like we said, this wasn't some dirty indie show, this was a gigantic Vegas-style new age circus, and from the looks of the crowd, we were newbies. Some look to be hardcore new agers, hollering and whooping like Yanni was The Boss.

When the linen was raised up, Yanni appeared in sensible black lounge wear, his trademark mustache and long hair shorn. He now resembles a kindly, less mookish Tony Danza. Albeit a Tony Danza with a strange twinkle in his eye. He straddled a trio of keyboards to the left of the stage, banging away at them with a restrained yet crazy stare.

This tour is in support of his new album, Yanni Voices, which is his first release in six years. The album has him accompanied by a crew of vocalists. Chloe reminds us of an older Miley Cyrus who was raised by Celine Dion instead of a mullet with in tight jeans. Ender Thomas would be an American Idol wet dream, with his blond mane and audience-wowing leather pants, which possibly stirred up things in the amassed throng of oldsters that made them thank the Good Lord for Cialis. Nathan Pacheco and Leslie Mills were actually sedate performers, coming off more Broadway than anything else.

The vocalists take turns singing various torch songs, stunning the crowd into silence. We sat and took in the widescreen weirdness, the softcore interaction between Chloe and Thomas evoked that same feeling we got the first time we accidentally watched a sex scene in a movie with our parents. All over the arena, we are sure hands roaming hands were no doubt the norm. Unbridled senior passion...

Yanni's longtime drummer Charlie Adams digs into a nearly five minute drum solo after the intermission, turning the show from an oldster affair into a prog-rock meltdown. Which made our mind wander into the realization that that is all Yanni is. A progger gone mad, stoked on Tangerine Dream clamor and a bitchin' set of lights and lasers, with a healthy dose of cringe-inducing showmanship at times. But at least the 'stache is gone. It's our belief that that very facial accoutrement is at least partially responsible for folks hating on the Greek dude.

The show ended with a sort of funk and soul freakout, with every performer onstage dancing and/or banging away at their instruments. The crowd chanted and wailed, a man sitting solo a few seats down screamed like he was at Skynyrd. We wrote down somewhere on Twitter during the that the whole thing was reminding us of an oldster version of the Arcade Fire or Animal Collective. Even hours later, we still kind of believe that.

The encore is reserved for Yanni and his orchestra, pounding out three pieces from his early days, like "Standing In Motion". Two guys a row ahead screamed in unison "The Storm" when started, like it was Zeppelin revving up "Whole Lotta Love". What the jaded music blogger doesn't know, the old folks understand.

So yes, what you just read was a strangely favorable Yanni review from an alternative newspaper. Go figure that...

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty