Written by Robert Johnson
Dec 22, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Photo by: Bob Carey, 2012I’ve wanted to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra for years.  I always heard great things, but due to the holiday touring schedule, I was always traveling and unable to attend.  Thankfully, for the first time ever, I was able to catch Trans-Siberian Orchestra on this year’s Lost Christmas Eve tour.

The stage was set with a large swinging clock, flames and fireworks, elevated platforms, large screen video, lasers, and a slew of talented musicians.  Immediately, it was evident that the band put an incredible amount of effort into the visual effects to accompany the music.  Considering that the band plays large venues (more than 18,000 were in attendance in San Antonio), this sort of attention to detail helps increase the value of every ticket in the house.  Whether fans found their seats in the nosebleeds, or on the floor, chances are they were able to take in the complete Trans-Siberian Orchestra experience.

The set opened strong with a rousing performance of “Winter Palace.”  By the fourth song, the popular “Wizards in Winter,” an incredible enthusiasm had spread throughout the AT&T Center.  In fact, fans were on the edge of their seats for much of the two hour event.  Throughout the evening, there was a consistent rotation of musicians taking center stage.  While “Christmas Dreams” required a more refined classical vocal performance, “Christmas Nights in Blue” needed a blues-style singer.  Rather than ask the same singer to perform multiple styles, Trans-Siberian Orchestra used specialists for each style of song.  Similarly, numerous female vocalists also took turns at lead.  In some songs, like “Christmas Canon Rock,” the talented group of vocalists worked together to provide a full, dynamic rendention of fan favorites.

The first 90 minutes (or so) of the set was dedicated to The Lost Christmas Eve, a story narrated by Phil Brady between songs designed to tie everything together.  Unfortunately, the narration throughout the event really took away from what could have otherwise been a perfect show.  This is not a knock on Phil Brady.  Brady was fantastic in the the role he was asked to play.  He has a great narrator voice, good facial expressions, and the ability to deliver an emotional story with authority.  That said, the story itself was disjointed and difficult to follow with each segment separated by three to six minutes of music.  Spread out over ninety minutes, it would require an incredible attention to detail to truly follow the story.  On top of that, it took away from the natural ability for songs to foster an energy on their own right.  For example, had the band been able to continue directly after “Wizards of Winter,” the crowd would have been absolutely nuts for “Christmas Dreams.”

Once the story was stripped from the performance, the action really picked up.  The final nine songs, starting with “The Mountain” and ending with “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” had a fantastic flow and energy.  The pyro was in full effect and the musicians really let loose.  In essence, the band’s execution of the final nine songs was like that of a traditional concert.  Without the stops after each song, the crowd was treated to the true talent and chemistry the band members share.

Musically (taking out the storytelling), Trans-Siberian Orchestra put on a flawless performance.  Jane Mangini, on keyboards / piano, was absolutely the standout performer of the event.  It was impossible to watch the show without becoming captivated by the power and precision of her performance.  Despite playing piano with a reckless abandon throughout the entire event, she never slowed, or played with any less intensity as the concert went on.  Similarly, guitarist and music director Al Pitrelli has the talent and skill of Joe Satriani, yet played throughout the set so seamlessly that he made it look easy.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra puts on a wonderful show.  Gone are the days where you’d be required to attend a crappy musical version of The Nutcracker to get in the holiday spirit.  Trans-Siberian Orchestra offers a brilliant alternative to the boring and traditional, while still fostering the joy and excitement of the holiday season.  If you haven’t seen Trans-Siberian Orchestra in the past, you should definitely give them a chance.  If you’re worried that you’re too young or too old, you shouldn’t be.  The crowd was a perfect cross-section representation of society, with men and women of all ages represented.  Feel free to take the whole family with you.

Music director: Al Pitrelli
Keyboards / Piano: Jane Mangini

Other Musicians:

Ava Davis
April Berry
Jodi Katz
Dari Mahnic
Chloe Lowery
Andrew Ross
Nathan James
Dustin Brayley
Jeff Scott Soto

Winter Palace
Faith Noel
The Lost Christmas Eve
Wizards in Winter
Christmas Dreams
Christmas Nights in Blue
Christmas Jam
Siberian Sleigh Ride
What is Christmas?
For the Sake of Our Brother
The Wisdom of Snow
Wish Liszt
Back to a Reason Part II
What Child is This?
Christmas Canon Rock
Different Wings

The Mountain
A Mad Russian’s Christmas
Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)
Toccata Carpimus Noctem
Child Unseen
Requiem (The Fifth)
This Christmas Day
Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)
* Contact Robert at robert@starsandsatellites.com