Share this article

print logo

Yanni provides a night to remember; The genre-crossing New Age maestro woos fans with a splashy spectacle in Shea's

He has played the Taj Mahal, he has played in China's Forbidden City and, of course, he has played the Acropolis.

Friday night, Yanni played Shea's.

For a huge crowd of his Western New York fans, "An Evening With Yanni" was a night to remember. The genre-crossing New Age maestro of the triumphal anthem and rhythmic melody squeezed a splashy spectacle onto the theater's compact stage and, at the same time, made the event feel like an intimate visit.

Maybe it's because the contagiously happy Yanni hardly ever stops smiling.

"I feel like I'm in my living room!" Yanni exclaimed at one point. "You are wonderful!"

The audience returned the sentiment, partly because Yanni's music requires a certain emotional investment. Where classical orchestrations have a cerebral appeal, and much of pop music is generated below the waist, Yanni explains that he plays from the heart.

He also knows how to woo his fans. Friday's show opened with Olympian power, with the 13-member band sending an explosion of sound across the auditorium. Yanni -- in black shirt, white pants, a stubble in place of his mustache and a still-impressive head of hair -- seemed ready to explode with excitement himself. Blowing two-handed kisses outward, he followed the opener with a new piece on the acoustic piano and then segued into a celebratory number with Mediterranean tones.

Then, it was time to say "Hello, Buffalo!" (And let's note the audience was never warned not to use electronic devices during the show. Ringers may have been turned off, but cellphone cameras were seen in abundance.)

"This is a really nice theater," Yanni proclaimed to applause, and then expanded: "We've been touring all over the country for weeks, and it's been rainy and windy, and rainy with thunderstorms. We've been here for three days, and it's been sunny and crystal clear!"

As the audience shouted, he cheerfully placed the cherry on top: "I'm gonna move here!"

But there's more: After a quick flight back and forth to Cleveland (with a slow, low dip over Niagara Falls) for a show, he said, the band went to the Anchor Bar.

"We had to have Buffalo wings," Yanni said. "And boy, Buffalo culture -- again, I'm telling you, we're gonna move here!"

And what better way to follow that than with a song about love, a song he wrote for his mother, "Felitsa." This tune has a dancelike quality, a soothing, comfortable sound, enhanced when the violins did some "talking" to one another.

Yanni is almost as good a musician as he is a showman; he is even more generous about the talents of the people playing with him. Standout solos came from cellist Alexander Zhiroff, Ming Freeman on keyboards, Jason Carder on flugelhorn, violinists Mary Simpson and Benedikt Brydern, Gabriel Vivas on bass, and Yoel Del Sol on percussion.

Going beyond standout to just blowing people away were Samvel Yervinyan, who practically set his violin on fire, harpist Victor Espinola (Who knew you could pick a harp up to play it?) and drummer Charlie Adams, who drew even more applause for his 10-minute solo than he did for the Bills jersey he was wearing. ("He wears a different T-shirt for every show," Yanni said later. "I tell him, if he wears the wrong T-shirt, we're dead!")

The most moving performance of the concert was "Nightingale," with vocals by Lauren Jelencovich. It was sweet and soaring, and perfect. The show lasted more than two hours, without an intermission, concluding with three encores and a promise by Yanni that they would try to return next year. Which, as Yanni said, should not be hard, "Because we're gonna move here!"




Friday evening in Shea's Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St.