When it comes to new age musical composition, Yiannis Chryssomallis, popularly known as Yanni, is a soulful genius. With a passion and an ear for music from a young age, his consistent exploration of the world of electronic sounds, new sounds and instruments have seen him become a sensation the world over.
After his first few albums in the 1980s, Yanni added a new dimension to his already distinct style when the Dallas Symphony Orchestra accompanied him in concert in 1990. Post this, he hand-picked his band members who would accompany him on tour and eventually added an entire symphony orchestra to his act.
As his fan base expanded, so did his tours. The venues also grew larger and more iconic, with Yanni performing at the Toji Temple in Kyoto, Japan; the Royal Albert Hall in London and the Acropolis in Greece. In fact, Yanni also became the first western artist to perform at the Taj Mahal in India and the Forbidden City in China.
After his successful performance at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2011, Yanni finally made his big debut in Abu Dhabi in September this year, which saw over 5,000 attendees flock to the du Forum on Yas Island.
Sound & Stage Middle East caught up with the events team involved in the concert to find out what it takes to execute a show for the Greek god of new age music.
Speaking about how they brought this concert to the capital city, Haidar Shukry, senior manager at FLASH Entertainment says, “As an event organiser, we’re committed to selecting the best international talent to bring to the region. Our focus is to be in line with Abu Dhabi’s vision to become a global cultural hub and these type of artists support this. Naturally, our audience’s preferences are taken into consideration as well, and the artist’s global tours influence the process too.”
Given the grandeur of Yanni’s shows and its history of perfection, every technical element had to be kept classic and sleek to ensure consistency with the atmosphere created by him and his 15-piece band.
Shurky explains that the stage had to have a footprint of 14.5m deep by 17m wide by 1.5m high, which was substantial for the du Forum, and there were also a series of risers set up on the stage with a couple of vertical lighting PODs that added to the performance.
“In terms of the venue and production arrangements, the main area of focus was the lighting and audio. Given that it was an instrumental heavy performance, the audio needed to be very polished, thus, we opted to go with Delta Sound for this gig as they presented the best fit in terms of financials, equipment and experience,” he says.
Having worked with Yanni’s production team twice in the past, Robert Eatock, project manager at Delta Sound knew what his crew required, and along with Mehdi Khelil, Delta Sound’s systems engineer, the collaboration process became significantly easier.
“Yanni has been around for a while so you can expect a very organised production crew. Their technical requirements involved a ‘racks and stacks’ system because they travel with all their own control and backline elements for the show.
“Consequently, there were no major challenges simply due to the fact that the industry in the region has developed quite well to support big artists like Yanni. Technical suppliers like Delta Sound have also strived to stay on top of the technology involved, and have also invested in the latest equipment and expertise to offer unrivalled services.”
In terms of the audio equipment involved, a flown L-acoustics K2 system comprising of 12 boxes a side was installed says Eatock. This made up the main left and right hangs.
Filling the rear of the grandstand, and making sure that a constant and even SPL (sound pressure level) was maintained, another two hangs of Kara speakers were chosen as delays. Additionally, to give the first few rows of the audience the perception of being on stage with the musicians, a ground stacked Kara system was used as front fills.
“I find the sub frequencies a little tricky in this venue because of the shape of it so we opted for an arc configuration,” says Eatock. “This gave us the ability to manipulate the sub pattern to our liking, maintaining a smooth low-end pattern across and to the rear of the venue. A total of eight SB28 sub cabinets made up the arc configuration and the system was driven using LA8 amplifiers controlled through the manufacturer’s LA network manager software.”
While having the right audio equipment was key, the lighting and video work were equally critical. Shurky points out that the tour team had provided quite a detailed technical rider for all lighting aspects of the show which was sourced locally and set up as per their instruction.
“Eclipse was awarded all the lighting and video work, and they did a good job at translating the requirements in the rider to reality. This was done in liaison with Yanni’s lighting designer and production manager at different stages of the show in advance.”
Speaking about the set-up, Craig Ralph, head of lighting at eclipse Staging Services says that by using their WYSIWYG suite, they were able to tailor the lighting designer’s world tour drawings in advance to fit the forum roof. This helped immensely because it eliminated the issue of having to compress a show into a venue that was never meant for a performance of that size.
“While the lighting looks were done at the discretion of the lighting designer Bennet Horowitz, the touring crew were very impressed with all of our pre-production work, including the precise labelling, pre-addressing, pre-visualisation and the looming of all of our kit. Our preparations ensured that the load-in and loud-out time was concise, meaning less time was spent on-site, and the touring crew had more time to refine their designs,” says Ralph.
“The lighting rig was a clean five straight truss set-up with a number of our choice kit including, Martin Mac Viper Profiles, Clay Paky Sharpy, Clay Paky b.EYE K20, Clay Paky b.EYE K10, Chauvet Colorado Tour 72 Battens, Vari*Lite VL3500 Wash FX, Smoke Factory TOUR Hazer II, Luminex Eth8 – DMX, Luminex GigaCORE RFO16 and Neutrik DUO Fibre, with High End Systems Road Hog Full Boar and High End Systems DP8000 Network Processor for control.”
The video requirements were quite intricate as well. Lee Worthington, head of video at eclipse Staging Services points out that while the touring crew were very easy to work with, their main video requirement was to ensure that the entire stage was covered.
“To facilitate this, the camera system put in place was designed to have maximum coverage of the stage and all the artists on it using both manned cameras and remote camera heads,” he says. “For this, we utilised a camera package of four Sony HXC100’s and two Sony remote camera heads running into a Ross Vision mixer.”
As with any event or concert, a couple of challenges were inevitable, and the trio unanimously agreed that the venue was quite tricky to work with.
For one, Worthington says that it required early planning in terms of access and so a precise build schedule had to be designed to ensure that there were no disruptions to the load-in and load out times.
Ralph added that the venue’s unique roof structuring made fitting any show of considerable size into it a challenge. However, eclipse did manage to gain a full trim height for the lighting designer by choosing strategic point placements while minimising the number of complex bridles in the roof.
On the audio and sound side of things, Eatock’s challenge lay with the acoustics of the venue room. “Given the shape of the structure as well as several reflective surfaces, we were able to control the sound by making sure the speakers were pointed with precise measurements to avoid those areas. As always, a room full of people absorbs the reflected sound which was a great help.”
Despite these obstacles, the overall delivery of the concert was flawless with shows on both nights being very well received, and FLASH Entertainment reporting sold out performances. Thus, it’s safe to say that the Yanni concert was a great start to a very promising events seasons in the region.