With Thanksgiving poking it's head right around the corner the only logical stress-relief event would be to attend a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert. Who or what is Trans-Siberian Orchestra? Well, it certainly is not a traditional orchestra from the Classical Era. Picture this: three men surrounding a piano, standing a top keys from another piano, a single man playing the largest drum set created by god, a large choir, a 60-piece orchestra, the vocals of several harmonious soloists and two very commanding narrators. Now, stir in the most elaborate light show and drizzle dozens of pyrotechnics that are synchronized with the performance and you generate one of the most exhilarating concerts of a life time.
As I walked to the arena in mid November I recognized straight away I was in for a treat. I sat in floor seats inside an arena. The orchestra began the concert with a holiday list from their debut album Christmas Eve and Other Stories. Easily said, this album expresses the story from "Christmas Eve" of an angel's Journey across the Earth to bring back to the Lord the "one thing that best represents everything good that has been done in the name of this day." Ultimately, the angel witnesses a reconciliation between a father and his daughter; then quickly vanishes and brings back that heavenly contentment to answer the Lord's wish. Moving on, TSO (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) takes this gentle, peaceful story and manifests it through the heaviest rock to blow your mind. Along with the band's unique way to deliver the music, the poetry of the narration was so powerful it was as if the story teller was singing without notes. The show is somewhat somber and moving as the narrator's deeb baritone booms through the arena.
Of course this was still Christmas music, so most of the common songs we all sing were played; however, each one had hints of high-energy filled musicians popping out of auxiliary stages strategically placed around the main stage. It's duly noted that the sporadic addition of extraordinary artists were welcomed. I've never stomped my foot, raised my rock hand and bobbed my head to "O Holy Night" and "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing." Each Christmas song, whether it be "Deck the Halls" or "Angels We Have Heard on High" featured a shredding guitar solo and a shot of foreboding undertone. The starry-screened backdrops that silhouette the musicians add an extra dimension as the musicians perform song after song. The most exciting part of this Christmas half of the concert is the fake snow constantly gusting all around the arena. Just close your eyes and picture yourself outside standing in the midst of a soft snow storm. The flakes constantly blowing across your skin leaving slight cold whispers. The meticulous influence of the effects team really sets the TSO concerts apart from the rest.
The second half of the concert started off with the audience being informed that "Now We Are Going to Rock!" Quickly after the narrator's stimulating statement were screaming guitars playing "Layla." Furthermore, an extensive keyboard system, small string section, and choir joined in momentarily to really blow this song out of the water. Immediately following the introduction, the entire band swimmingly transitioned into what seemed like a few Beethoven songs. Again, take three pianists playing alone and then promptly add the entire band into the recipe. I have heard plenty samples of orchestral movements in this class, however, this was a refreshing mix to what is already considered some of the most difficult music to play. After a few modernized renditions of what are some very popular classical movements the band played "The Flight of the Bumblebee" faster than any set of ears could listen. The exceptional violinist, who started the song, found herself dueling a set of guitars by the end. I'm not really sure who won that battle, although both desperately ran off stage for a break.
The ending of the concert was the best part, as cliché as that may sound. The elaborate concert matured into a July 4th fireworks show at the end. Yes, this was inside of an arena. From the opening notes to the final thunder of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, a roar that I'm positive Beethoven may have heard despite being dead and deaf. The light show was never ending. Each light hit perfectly with a timed tune making the concert that much more intoxicating. Being in floor seats, my guest and I were sitting directly in front of the final pyrotechnics show. We could feel the heat on the back of our heads as each ball of fire was shot synchronized with each syncopated note.
This was undoubtedly one of the best three hours of my life. Every second the band would take the concert to a new extreme; whether it be face to face guitar playing, violinists pointing to the crowds to raise our involvement, or complete back-to-back rocking out. Honestly, who can resist a man running around the stage playing a "Flying V" violin? TSO really absorbs all sorts of genres and catapults it out as a well pieced together puzzle. The last thing any guest should do is rush to the parking lot to beat the traffic. Missing even a few minutes of the show, which often features special guests would be a tragedy. The concert director and performers certainly deserve a pat on the back and a thumbs up for what I consider time well spent.