We don’t normally review events after the fact, but here goes. We went to see Yanni at Sugathadasa Stadium. He seems like a really sweet person, surrounded by some really talented musicians.
Sugathadasa is a strange stadium. It seems ideal for modern gladiatorial combat, with a sunken pit and seats all around, but it’s not big or rectangular enough for a proper track or football pitch. I suppose you could play volleyball, and I have seen a boxing match there. Anyways.
The trouble with Sugathadasa for concerts is that it’s a 360 stage, but Yanni at least plays only to the front. Half of the seats are literally backstage and can see nothing. We actually got seats on the very end, looking at Yanni’s soundcrew and a giant speaker – no visibility on the band.
Thankfully the posh, assigned seats hadn’t filled up and they moved us there. That’s the funny thing about saving seats for VIPs, they don’t seem to show up all the time and they leave early. Which brings me to a funny story.
As the show was about to begin, Chi Chi Rajapaksa (the youngest son) arrived with a few friends and sat at the front. As the show hadn’t started this was the show, as VIPs were seated in a pit where everyone else could observe. Later, as Yanni was playing a song about his mother, a small entourage of chefs and waiters descended upon someone else in the audience and started serving them food. In the middle of a concert. Bit strange. They left shortly afterwards and it looked like the President’s wife, couldn’t really tell. This left the seats right in front of YAMU open. But I digress.
Yanni is an excellent performer and seems like a genuine guy. His music constantly builds tension and involves a lot of people playing their instruments as fast as humanly possible. Yanni introduced solos by each of the players (violinists, cellists, bassist, harpist, drummer, etc) and they were all talented entertainers in their own way. The violinists were amazing and the lady player was constantly smiling and even dropped it like it’s hot. The drummer changed into a Sri Lanka cricket jersey and praised Ceylon Tea, all to cheers from the crowd.
Yanni himself comes out in what looks like pyjamas and has a great time. He’s a talented pianist but more than anything he knows how to work a crowd, how to build excitement, and how to talk to people. Near the end he gave a small talk on his philosophy, basically one world, one love, no borders from space, and came back for multiple encores.
Yanni is a sweet person in that he communicates a positive message without being too new-agey and weird about it. Indeed, he rarely uses words. The music is its own trip, and each piece is introduced happily, with one being about love, and his mother, others inspired by places he’s been. He also takes obvious joy in watching his supporting performers and is really generous with his stage. There isn’t a big ego on stage, and he doesn’t make music out to be some tortured or distant art. He just seems like a happy person that loves music.
He seemed to love it here and the crowd really loved him. He said he’ll be back – every year. The music may not be for everybody (it’s not one of my favorites to play on CD), but it can connect with almost anyone, and the man loves his job so obviously that it’s hard to not enjoy a concert. We recommend it when he comes again.