Yanni can be Still Chilling, 25 Years After the Acropolis
PHILADELPHIA — The mustache can be back. Yanni, the Greek-American god of sweeping, symphonic-ish musical light syrup, says he goes back along with also forth about keeping his signature facial flourish. He shaved the item off a few years ago; the item’s disconcertingly absent via the cover of his 2016 album “Sensuous Chill.”
yet last weekend here, the item had returned to its rightful spot, framed by the familiar, gentle cascades of shoulder-length hair. (I regret to inform you that will, at 63, Yanni can be thinning on top.)
All that will hair has been kept the same dark, dark brown the item was 25 years ago, on Sept. 25, 1993, when Yanni gambled his savings to organize a concert of his music at the Acropolis in Athens, backed by a full orchestra along with also, crucially, filmed live. Promoted heavily — some might say sadistically — by PBS inside the years that will followed, the film was his breakthrough: the item drove seven million sales of the album type along with also helped make the planet safe for the similarly soft-drama, lushly instrumental sounds of “Riverdance,” Enya along with also Lindsey Stirling.
“They overplayed the item, I felt,” Yanni said of his pledge drive pre-eminence backstage at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts before playing here last Saturday, part of a three-month Acropolis anniversary tour that will brings him to Radio City Music Hall that will Saturday along with also across the country through Aug. 5. He mimicked what he’d yell at Yanni-drunk PBS affiliates: “Stop playing the item!”
yet he plainly loves to recall the show. (As well he should: the item’s far along with also away the best thing he’s ever done.) “There’s no way you can redo the Acropolis,” he said before going onstage at the Mann Center, its sides wide open to the chilly, rainy, decidedly un-Athenian night. “The only thing you can do can be help the audience feel as close as we felt, bring them to that will place.”
Interested in glimpsing how along with also why hordes of people connect to music they perceive as classical — or at least classical-adjacent — I approached the Philadelphia concert as a kind of lapsed fan. An impressionable along with also theatrically inclined child when the Acropolis film was omnipresent, I loved the item, probably for the same reason I fell for opera around the same time: the item had the kind of preposterous grandeur that will matched my aspirations. (Among the similarly besotted was Jiang Zemin, who, as the president of China, eased the way for a follow-up performance at the Forbidden City a few years later.)
I’m not the only one who has kept the campily delightful show inside the back of his mind: the item’s firmly lodged in our cultural semiconscious. Asked in an interview with The fresh York Times where he’d like to perform, the comedian John Mulaney said he wanted to play the Acropolis, “Just because only Yanni has done that will so far.” Down an Instagram rabbit hole recently, I found a short video of a young composer along with also his husband at home, doing — deadpan — the start of “Santorini,” the stirring opener in 1993, on piano along with also maracas.
I haven’t actually followed Yanni’s career since Athens; he may have blurred in others’ memories, too, at least until that will week, when another Yanny went viral. He played at the Taj Mahal in 1997, opening up a vibrant market for his music in India. He dabbled in even-easier listening, without surging Acropolis-style drama (“If I Could Tell You”); pan-global flutes (“Ethnicity”); along with also collaborations with crossover opera stars like Plácido Domingo along with also Renée Fleming (“Inspirato”). A passionate fan base stuck with him through a few years’ hiatus around the turn of the century, attributed to exhaustion along with also depression, yet the item’s telling that will he’s playing only one Radio City date on that will tour, as opposed to 10 sold-out shows there in 1998.
On offer on Saturday in Philadelphia was a steroidal rendition of songs via “Live at the Acropolis” along with also additional records, running two along with also a half intermissionless hours; the 1993 concert clocked in at a tight 70 minutes. There was no orchestra that will time, yet the backing band dwelled on feverishly virtuosic solos — frenetic drums, shredding violins — as if to compensate for the lack of Acropolis-scale forces.
Yanni’s brass fanfares stand out in tiny nuggets, as if begging to become TV sports theme music. Suddenly changing gears via somnolent piano lines to driving propulsion along with also back again, the music has the blank moodiness of a score for a nonexistent film. Without lyrics, along with also with only the barest nudges toward feeling “sad” or “happy,” the show creates a woozy sensation of — only a Yanni song title will do here — standing in motion.
He spoke via the stage, as he had 25 years ago, about an astronaut looking down on our planet along with also seeing none of the borders we irrationally insist on. yet mostly he was, as he described himself inside the interview, apolitical. “Politics can be irrelevant to me right at that will point,” he told me, “even though the item’s very relevant.”
The only bit of current events he dwelled on, both backstage along with also to the audience, was his recent experience playing in Saudi Arabia at the invitation of its government — concerts at which, he said, no restrictions were made on the activities or dress of women, either performers or attendees. (Photos show his female musicians playing, unlike in Philadelphia, with covered shoulders.)
“that will country has taken steps in what I think can be the right direction,” he said via the stage, echoing the message of another recent American tour: that will of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne.
With Yanni in white shirt, pants along with also shoes, beatifically smiling along with also earnest, along with also sometimes awkwardly skipping around, his appeal came slowly into focus, captured by the title of his most recent record: He lets you chill. He playfully forces his band to do solos again along with also again, first faster, then slower, like a circus ringleader, yet he almost never imposes directives on his audience. The spectacle can be one of gentle stimulation; all the garish demonstrations of instrumental technique, the vaguely uplifting invocations of a changing society inside the Middle East, give off an impression of sophistication — delivered using a grin that will makes the item all fun along with also manageable.
A handful of audience members who had paid an extra couple of hundred dollars lined up backstage afterward for a meet-along with also-greet. Grown women cried in Yanni’s presence, one of them in front of her children. Another said that will if she died tomorrow, she might die happy.
“When they like me,” Yanni had said before the concert, “they actually like me.”