Live at El Morro
2012 / Sony Music
Review by Michael Debbage
It has only been six years since Yanni released his last live album entitled Yanni Live! The Concert Event. While some things remain the same, such as Yanni’s always reliable drummer Charlie Adams along with a few other repeating band members, what is very obvious is the focus on new material as well as Yanni’s high energy enthusiasm that has translated into his latest live recording. Recorded on the most north western point of Old San Juan in Puerto Rico, the El Morro fort is rugged yet romantic. Apparently, the location has rubbed off on Yanni’s performance that is touching yet dynamic, resulting in a moving live performance courtesy of the CD/DVD presentation of Live at El Morro, Puerto Rico.
Struggling with the unknown elements of the weather, which is clearly evident via the DVD presentation, Yanni begins the show boldly by presenting his audience with the gorgeous title track from his last studio album Truth Of Touch. He then double dares himself by jumping right into the more aggressive “Vertigo” also from his brand new album. Talking charge on the keyboards, Yanni does not hesitate to allow fellow keyboard player Ming Freeman to spotlight later into the song, supplemented by the pounding drums of Adams.
While there are only ten tracks on the cd live performance, Yanni chooses wisely by also sharing two live renditions of older songs for the first time. The first obvious one is “Nightingale” taken from the Tribute album with a simply sublime vocal performance from Lauren Jelencovich. She continues her magnificent vocal performance courtesy of “Ode To Humanity” (previously titled “Aria” that received significant exposure on the British Airways advertisement). This time around Lauren is given some vocal assistance from Lisa Lavie, as well as allowing the horn section the opportunity to warm up. Then we are introduced to the first committed to tape live rendition of “Niki Nana (We’re One)” from the album of the same title, by which time Yanni and the band are for the lack of a better phrase a unified jam band. With Yanni being the bandleader, the horn section comes close to something that you would expect from Chicago. Meanwhile, the soulful wailing vocal rendition from Lisa Lavie is a blast as is Freeman’s solo on the organ. If you want to fully enjoy this performance check out the visual rendition on the DVD as the energy level is nothing short of full throttle leaning more towards an R&B band. While speaking of the DVD, check out the “Harp Solo” from Victor Espinola or perhaps we should just call him harp extraordinaire as he plays his harp like a guitar. You have to see it to believe it.
In between the live recordings from Yanni’s brand new album and the older classics being committed to tape for the first time, he still wisely revisits his cornerstone songs such as “The Rain Must Fall”, “Felitsa” and “The End Of August”. And while Yanni does not hesitate to surround himself with a first class band, it is still the mesmerizing melodies of Yanni’s music that is the focal point. Clearly his recent studio explorations have translated to amped up live performances making Live at El Morro, Puerto Rico very clear and compelling evidence that actually seeing Yanni live should be on your very short list.
July 29, 2012