March 28 2016 02:09 PM

World-renowned musician can still give you all sorts of confused feelings

In hindsight, I guess I owe a lot to Brianna Contreras, the con artist.

A little back-story: for the past year, Contreras has attempted to get into multiple concerts under the guise that she works for San Diego CityBeat. She does not. Hear that, music promoters and venues? BRIANNA CONTRERAS DOES NOT WORK FOR CITYBEAT.

We found out about Brianna's latest con a couple weeks ago, when a publicist from Missing Piece Group let us know that Brianna was all set up to go to Yanni.


Now, if you're trying to use CityBeat's cred to score concert access, at least have good taste. Maybe I'm being judgmental, as I've never really listened to Yanni, but who under 80 years old has? For me, at least, the musician has been the ubiquitous epitome for New Age (aka bad) music, a punchline, and cursed to the annals of awkward family holiday parties and elementary art classes for eternity.

We told the publicist that Brianna didn't work for us. She thanked us and then replied: "PS: You wanna come see YANNI?"

Now, a free concert is a free concert. Not only would I be benefiting from Brianna's attempts to undermine our paper, but maybe—just maybe—I'd learn to be less prejudiced against Yanni* (*cue shitty sentimental music** [**Yanni]).

Flash forward to the week of the show. I'm sick. Like, sicker than I have been in years. I've descended to the Vicks VapoRub level of grossness (which I affectionately refer to as "The Rub"). I pass the illness on to my wife, who quickly harbors resentment. Not a sexy time in the old Bradford house, Dear Readers.

With all this downtime, I'm able to do a little research. Turns out that Yanni's a pretty interesting guy. He's an entirely self-taught musician who's become famous by making the music that he wants to make, eschewing popular trends, radio and MTV in the process.

He's also released an album this year, in the year of our lord 2016, called Sensuous Chill.

"Ew," my wife says, when I tell her the name of the album.

I give it a listen. Sensuous Chill has track names such as "Thirst for Life" and "Rapture" and other words I bet Sting has whispered huskily during the throes of tantric sex. It's not bad, just perfect in a forgettable way.

I'm not entirely sure what the dress code for a Yanni show is—it's at the Civic Theater, which commands a level of formality, so I decide wear a collared shirt, tucked in, but with the top button open as to convey my own sensuous chill. Compared to the previous days of feeling like a garbage human, the outfit feels downright sexy. Plus, the open collar allows The Rub to breathe.

Yanni's audience is the most well-dressed I've ever seen. Everyone looks like they could hire someone to kill someone else. It's also a packed house. I mean, not to belabor the point, Brianna, but our seats are amazing: center, about 7 rows up. Easily worth more than $100 each.

The lights dim. Members of the orchestra take their positions. And then, Yanni emerges. He jaunts across the stage. He wears a black turtleneck and pants. Classic Yanni attire, I think. His hair appears well-conditioned and flowing, thereby living up to all my expectations. His movements are like that of Pinocchio on the verge of becoming a real boy: bouncy, aloof, playful.

"Did he just frolic?" My wife whispers.

The stage lights shift to blue. This is the chill that we've all been waiting for. He opens with a soft, sultry number—foreplay, I guess, because I realize now that everything Yanni does on stage is vaguely sexual. The crowd goes nuts. I count no fewer than five women over 50 years old recording with their phones, which will stay out for the majority of the concert (remember this next time you feel the urge to bash millennials for being The Worst).

After the foreplay, Yanni kicks it into high gear. He spends the concert alternating between heavy, pulsing songs and delicate piano compositions. His likability is infectious, even when he's thrusting between two synthesizers assembled like a command console on a spacecraft. It's clear that his orchestra absolutely loves Yanni, and they treasure the moment when he calls upon them to perform a solo. He'll orchestrate with obscene hand gestures—coaxing the performance out, pushing the musician's limits, finger blasting the air until the performer is depleted of song. Then he allows them to take a seat, and he looks at the crowd with a smile, a "Did I do that?" earnestness.

"Would you love me more if I could shred on the harp?" my wife asks after watching the harpist lift his instrument and scratch it with the ferocity of a feral cat.

"No doy," I whisper.

He bows between every song, out of breath and flinging the sensual energy from his fingers.

"WE LOVE YOU, YANNI!" someone from the audience calls out.

"I love you too," he says, faux-bashfully.


"I'm breathing."

After the concert, the crowd stands outside and talks about their favorite songs. I realize it's one of the most diverse groups I've ever seen in San Diego. People speak in European languages that I don't recognize. Elderly people take selfies underneath the marquee. I'm not cured of the sickness, but it's the first time in awhile that I don't feel disgusting. I mentally thank Brianna for the date before my wife and I walk into the sensuous and chill night.

Ryan is the author of Horror Business. Write to or follow him on Twitter at @theryanbradford


See all events on Friday, Dec 2