While Yamaha may be best known in the consumer world for motorized fun machines, in the universe of musicians, the brand is recognized for producing a broad spectrum of musical instruments and PA gear to match most any budget or skill level. It was this dedication to creating respectable musical products that launched Yamaha in Japan some 125 years ago—which explains why Yamaha’s logo is three tuning forks and not a motorcycle, wave runner and snowmobile. Yamaha has been in the music products business a long time, and they have established many long-term relationships with top artists. So, at the 2013 NAMM show in Anaheim, in celebration of their 125 anniversary, Yamaha invited their dealers and a few members of the press to a musical extravaganza featuring the cream of their roster or endorsing artists.
Backed by a backed by a 70 piece orchestra, the evening’s musical fare began with Earth, Wind and Fire performing “Fantasy,” and “September,” followed by a dance card that included Toto, Chaka Kahn, Amy Grant, David Foster, Dave Grusin, Dave Koz, Michael McDonald, Leogun, Sarah McLachlan, The USC Marching Band and others, finishing up some three and a half hours later with Sir Elton John performing five classics hits, two solo and three with the orchestra.
To keep it moving, Sinbad interacted with the audience and provided miscellaneous comedic ramblings between acts, covering for the momentary lapses in musical entertainment as the highly trained sound crew moved gear on and off the stage like a team of precision skaters. The event, held at the Hyperion theatre in Downtown Disney, was a rapid fire succession of greatest hits (and some new music) presented to a very appreciative selection of the musical community.
Quite contrary to the type of performances these same artists would present to John Q. Ticketbuyer, these were respected musicians performing for people who really respect musicians, and while the Yamaha brand was displayed predominantly on the back stage wall, the commercial aspect was limited to appreciative comments of these artists who have been relying on Yamaha’s craftsmanship in support of their careers. To see and hear even Sir Elton step out of the persona created by the tabloids and really play the piano as only he can.
It was a concert unlike any I had ever attended, touching on all genres as artists interacted with the instruments they’ve willingly attached their reputations to, performing perhaps as they would in the privacy of their own living rooms.
Elton John perfoms Rocket Man – Same lyrics, slightly different melody:
Tech Note: Yamaha used the occasion to globally demonstrate the technology of the Disklavier line of pianos. Much like the player pianos of old, these acoustic pianos incorporate fiber optic sensing systems, high performance solenoids, and state-of-the-art computer technology to accurately record piano performances and play back with all of the expression and nuance of the original performance. During Elton John’s set, Disklavier pianos located in other parts of the world were playing each note in perfect sync with Sir Elton’s keystrokes at the concert. Video screens and monitors added the visuals and orchestral backing live. So while a musician can still only be in one place at one time, their keyboard artistry can be virtually anywhere.
Here’s what it looked like at one of the remote locations, Courtesy of Tom Lee Music, Vancouver, Canada