Monday, December 20, 2010

Trans-Siberian Orchestra will have you ready to deck the halls

It seems everyone has a list of traditions they usually carry out during the holiday season.

Most people either Xmas shopping, baking gingerbread cookies, putting up decorations, or just doing their best to avoid it all.

But there's something else that should be on your list. Something that you need to do at least once. If seeing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra isn't on your list, shame on you.

The spectacle of lights, fireworks, neo-classical rock, and Christmas themed energy is something that everyone needs to witness at least once. And the Trans-Siberian Orchestra brought it to Nashville's Bridgestone Arena Dec. 12 in grand style.

Prepare to be amazed by the TSO light show.

Their first and most famous album, Christmas Eve and other Stories, is a rock opera that tells the story of a man on a search to find the meaning of Christmas. The first half of the show consists of a musical narrative of this story. You have a narrator who tells the story and sets the stage for each song. This part of the show will definitely get you pumped up and in the Christmas spirit.

The band lineup consists of three tuxedo clad guitarists, a drummer, a keyboard/piano player, and a elastic female violinist who looks like she could jump kick you in the face. I can't really name people by name becase I coldn't keep up.

And then there is the singer. Guy is truly an epic hard rock vocalist.

Members of TSO play off each other very well.
He has great range, emotion and feeling and really understands the concepts behind showmanship. His vocal pyrotechnics during "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" lit up the stadium just as effectively as any of the myriad fireworks or light displays the band utilizes.

The guitar playing is truly phenomenal. During "O Holy Night" they unleashed a flurry of sweeps and scales so fast that even Joe Satriani would be swelling with pride.

And the light show ensures there are always unique and elaborate backgrounds for every song. There are a lot of cool colors, a lot of purples and blues that help set the mood but every now and then the stage will be washed in a majestic gold light.

The narrator, Phillip Brandon, is a big guy that reminds me of Seal, or James Earl Jones. Personally I didn't know the story coming in, and I feel like you lose something without knowing that. The narrator does a fine job, he's all deep voiced and bombastic and everything, but after a while he started to get tedious. And having him come in between every song is a little much.

The second half of the show saw the band break out into a little more diversity. There was a mash up of the Beatles "Help!" with some other song I didn't recognize the name of. There was also a soprano falsetto vocalist who sang and danced on a stage opposite the main stage on the other side of the arena.

There were also a couple of Beethoven tracks, along with long catwalks extending out over the seating area that the guitar players walked out on.

Virtually everyone that I know who's been to a TSO concert has been blown away at their experience. Is it overwrought and over the top? Sure, but you can't help but admire it. It takes incredible effort to coordinate the lights, fireworks, choreography, and music.

I would have liked it if they did more covers; the Help! half-cover they did was pretty lame. And I would have liked a little more Beethoven. I'm also pretty sure there were a couple of songs they played more than once.

Overall I thought it was a good show, but I think the fact that over half the concert was spent storytelling turned out to be an issue. I had a problem making out what the narrator was saying, and after a while I didn't care. I think it would have worked better in a smaller, more intimate venue.

But that aside, seeing Trans-Siberian Orchestra is still a great show to see. Are they over the top? Sure. Do they reek a little of 80s metal? At times, but for your dollar there's no better way to get yourself into the Christmasy mood.

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