According to the weird looks and Facebook comments I’ve been receiving, it’s not normal to fill your Spotify playlists with Yanni songs, nor devote evenings to his show. Forgive me for my ignorance. Or, as my friend Lauren would say, sorry not sorry.
Forget street cred; I’m glad I didn’t know that Yanni wasn’t the coolest cat in the 20-25 year old age range. Last Tuesday, I met Richard Allenson, the tour manager for Yanni’s show, and took him up on his offer for tickets to Wednesday’s show at the Van Wezel. I was part looking for a chance to redeem myself after my Film Festival flop of entertainment reporting, part looking to convince Richard that I’d make a perfect assistant for the South American leg of the tour. Either way, the offer was enough to rouse me from my bed before heading off to work the night shift. This, I can assure you, is no easy task.The first realization I had at the show was that I am far more influenced by my Puritan forefathers than I had ever known. Let’s face it: Yanni makes playing the keyboards way more sexual than anyone I’ve ever seen. Probably more than anyone’s ever seen. There are a lot of hip thrusts involved. A lot. I found myself resisting the urge to cover the eyes of the older gentleman next to me. Another let’s face it: I was the youngest member of the audience. There was no one whose wide-eyed innocence I could preserve.
Puritanical scandalization aside, I was quickly sucked into the show. For those of you who, like me before Wednesday, don’t know what it’s about, the show features Yanni, a Greek sexual-energy-oozing-flowy-haired beast of a man, playing approximately six keyboards and/or a piano at once, accompanied by a full on orchestra. There are strings, brass, a harp (that was lifted up and played like an air guitar), percussion (played by a Cuban man who I suspect causes trouble with the ladies), drums (pounded on by a certifiably insane man named Charlie who I would choose to board with when I’m the South America assistant), a keyboard player (who comes across as more Zen than Buddha)… The list goes on and on. Check out the artist page on Yanni’s tour website to see what I'm talking about. The entertainment value of the orchestra alone would be worth a trip to another show.What impressed me most and drew me into the audience-wide transfixion was the look of pure joy that Yanni displayed while performing. In addition to his pelvic thrusts, there was jumping, hand motions, and an ear-to-ear beam. I’ve been on a “Am I living my life to the fullest?” kick lately and his delight made me jealous. Because I’m easily distracted, my concentration drifted from the music to questioning if there was anything in my life that made me as happy as one minute of one song made Yanni. The closest answer I came up with was time with my brothers. Because they’re ridiculous. And I like ridiculous. Maybe you’ve noticed.
My drifting didn’t last long. On the list of things that I’m bad with, understanding music is topped only by horrific navigation skills (we’re talking try to go to the local pet store and end up in China Town a state or two over). So that the music had me transfixed was huge. That it had an emotional pull was even bigger. When happy songs played, I got happy. When sad songs came, I got sad. When the kickass violinist shimmied low, I went up and down with her. I prayed to the powers that be that Yanni would choose to end on a happy song so that I could go to work feeling good instead of bemoaning the state of the world.
Curse the power the flowy-haired man held over me.
A benevolent (Greek) god, he acquiesced to my wish, ending with the hopeful 'One Man’s Dream.' Mental connection between Yanni and Keely? I think yes. It’d really be bad for the tour and the whole world if Richard didn’t choose to have me accompany the group in South America. Who else would tap into the crowd’s mood and telepath its desires to Yanni?
Final conclusion: the show was worth giving up an hour or two of sleep. It was worth the “What’s the hair like in real life?” questions I fielded from some friends, and the poorly masked looks of envy that I got from others. It was a win and I like wins almost as much as I like ridiculous. Plus, a positive externality occurred - I finally came to understand why people like to go to shows and concerts so often. There’s a life enhancing factor: maybe the entertainment holds you transfixed and two hours passes quicker than fifteen minutes, or maybe something sticks that gives you an answer to a nagging life ponderance. Maybe you just realize that the Puritans cursed you to a lifetime of being uptight. No matter what the outcome, it makes me want to take advantage of the cultural opportunities the town offers more frequently. 'Catch Me If You Can?' Yes, thank you. 'Hamlet, Prince of Cuba' ? I’d be delighted.
And so I’m admitting no shame. Last week, I asked people to jump on the bandwagon and become Keelyites. This week, I’m becoming a Yanni-ite. He makes me happy. Happy is good. If it limits my social circle to the over sixty crowd, so be it. After all, I live in Sarasota. It was bound to happen sometime…