Pure Yanni runs at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre through the weekend
Some people think in words. Some people think in pictures. World-renowned composer Yanni thinks, feels, and communicates his life through music.
The Greek composer — known for his concerts at landmarks around the world including the Taj Mahal and the Acropolis — is entering his final weekend on Broadway. Pure Yanni is the first installment in Live Nation’s In Residence on Broadway, and ‘Pure’ it is.
Taking the stage in all black, Yanni first addressed the crowd with the lights up, telling those in attendance that this evening is more living room conversation than international pop concert. After playing the aforementioned world wonders (there is, of course, the prerequisite video highlighting Yanni’s achievements that plays before he takes the stage) Yanni says he’s ready to tone it down, and talk with the audience.
For their part, the crowd at the historic Lunt-Fontanne was mostly Yanni loyalists, inspired by his music in one form or another. When called on, most were nervous to ask a question of their idol. A question from a couple who fell in love over his song “Reflections of Passion” resulted in a story about how a poor and college-aged Yanni would sneak into his brother’s home while his brother was at work, and write the song on his piano.
Yanni also gave his fans a masterclass in music. Not music theory, but musical emotion. If you ever wondered why Yanni’s music is so deeply affecting, see him on Broadway. Like the masked magician revealing all the trapdoors, Yanni reveals the heart behind his music. And, as each show is sure to reveal new secrets, I have no problem highlighting some of the stories shared at the May 31st show.
A song called “Butterfly Dance” was composed in an intentionally fluttering manner; “Marching Season” had no time signature until a frustrated Symphony orchestra was forced to figure out how to play the complex piece. Why? Yanni never bothered with anything as mundane as traditional music notation. To this day, he uses his own custom writing method.
I had the chance to ask Yanni about two songs, the mega-hits “Santorini” and “Standing in Motion.” The latter was an emotional response to the destruction of his birth home; the former a soaring ride over the island Santorini.
One particularly emotional moment was his explanation of the ending to his hit, “One Man’s Dream.” As Yanni makes every effort to play this song each night on Broadway, I’ll not spoil it. But you’ll never hear the song the same again.
If you’re worried about seeing Yanni in a stripped down environment, let me put that to bed right now: This is actually the best way to see this “modern day composer.” For in his “big shows,” as he calls them, Yanni is conductor and keyboardist, with the full range of his compositions on display more-so than his virtuosity on the piano.
Here on Broadway, songs including “The Rain Must Fall” and “Nostalgia” are as full as they are with a large orchestra. It was, quite frankly, shocking to see the depth that one man and a piano can bring. Even Yanni himself warned the audience, “Those recordings are a snapshot, capturing a moment in time. Tonight I will play everything fresh, from my memory only, making them at once familiar and new to all of you.” Perhaps, that is the definition of pureness.
Pure Yanni has two more shows, June 1st and 2nd at 8 pm both nights at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036. Tickets available via Ticketmaster.
Author: Matt Bailey
Matt Bailey is podcast producer and writer located in the Northeast. Since 2013, Bailey has produced more than 160 episodes of his own online radio show, Talk For Two. In 2016 alone, he interviewed Kevin Bacon, Crystal Gayle, Bob Barker, and Gilbert Gottfried, among several other stars. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, his focus is Broadway, country music and concert reviews.