Review: Yanni keeps UAE fans satisfied at the Du Forum

Yanni performed the first of two nights at the Du Forum on Yas Island.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Sept 29, 2016: Yanni performing at the Du Forum on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. (Pawan Singh / The National)
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When you have over a dozen top notch musicians in your backing band, it’s best to use them.

When Yanni utilised their full powers during the first of two nights at the Du Forum on September 29, the results were sublime. When he didn’t, and instead elected for preprogrammed samples, it felt like a wasted opportunity.

That aside, the Greek new-age performer’s set connected with the packed audience with a two hour programme spanning his three decade career. The 61-year-old was in high spirits, constantly moving from his grand piano to his iconic control station of 8 keyboards.

He acted as unassuming maestro; trumpet and drum solos were delivered at the twiddle of a finger, or in one case strumming his fingers across his chest to summon the violin. He was in tune with the band the evocative sounds — even noise unplanned. During Human Condition, Yanni delayed a tender duet with violinist Samvel Yervinyan when an outbound plane flew over the venue.

It was a varied set, ranging from up-tempo Amazonian beats to sombre pieces about his mother, Felitsa, who taught him "unconditional love". The band shined in the rhythmic, The Rain Must Fall; a quick-switch in tempo lead to a pinpoint slap-and-pop bass and a thunderous drum solo.

However, with all that talent on board it was rather disheartening to see them undermined with Yanni's liberal use of digital sampling through out the set. In the Middle-Eastern themed Keys to Imagination, confusion set in as the track's predominant oud was seemingly coming out of nowhere — it took a moment for listeners to recognise that it originated from pianist Ming Freeman. Surely one of his cracking guitarist could have played that section. It happened again during Drive; the sampled drum machine sounded incongruent and rather dated.

Ultimately, it was fine performance with the hardcore fans — there were plenty of vintage Yanni T-shirts at the venue — eagerly lapping it all up. If Yanni was only more maestro and less DJ, the gig would have truly been otherworldly.