Christmas/Holiday Cheer: Trans-Siberian Orchestra, “Christmas Dreams”

Last night the family went to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert at Rupp Arena. Ben had gone with a friend to see T-SO in Cincinnati a couple of years ago and returned quite impressed. When I mentioned the possibility of scoring tickets for this year’s tour, he was enthusiastic. So, even though it would be during finals week for me and on a weeknight when Ben’s frequently been having piles of homework, we made our plans.

To be honest, I knew little going in outside of the five or so songs you hear on the radio regularly this time of year, so I learned a lot seeing them play (and doing a bit of online looking upon our return home). The group on stage last night consisted of two guitarists, bassist, drummer, two keyboardists, electric violinist, ten vocalists (five male, five female), and seven local orchestral musicians (they hire locals to fill out the sound at each show).

Rather than do a blow-by-blow, I’ll hit highlights, bullet-style:
–The experience was more hard rock/80s hair metal than I expected going in, but that’s due solely to my ignorance. I now know about the connections between T-SO and the 80s/90s metal band Savatage (who slipped under my radar back in the day);
–That said, the musicianship was rock-solid and all the vocalists were very good;
–There were stretches that I really enjoyed, but others that didn’t grab me all that much. I think that’s all about stylistic preferences (metal’s never been my thing). It seemed to be more Ben’s scene than mine or Martha’s overall;
–I ran into a couple of college friends and their son just as we walked in—we hadn’t seen one another in a long time, but from FB I know they’re big T-SO fans. Bonnie posted afterward that this was the best she’d seen of them;
–The light/laser show was effectively deployed throughout the night, and the band worked hard on engaging the audience;
–Our seats were on the aisle, to the right side of the stage as you face it. People were traipsing up and down the stairs all night long, blocking our view more than we’d have liked (it was really bad at the beginning, as latecomers kept pouring in). Fairly frustrating, but we know where not to sit next time!
–The strings were far, far down in the mix. It was essentially a guitar/bass/keyboard/drum affair all night long. I think I might have enjoyed a more “orchestral” experience;
–There are actually two touring T-SOs. Last night, the other one was in St. Louis. Tonight, the bunch we saw will be playing two shows in Greenville, SC, while the others will be in Knoxville.

They did play the songs I already knew, and that was fun. “Wizards in Winter” is probably my favorite of their works, and it didn’t disappoint. I especially enjoyed the rocked-up take on “Christmas Canon,” with four of the female singers out in front, and their closing “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” was mighty fine. But I figured maybe I’d feature one of the pieces that was new to me instead. The rock/metal influences of years gone by are prominent, but the melody and chord progressions strongly resonate. Were this a rock song of the late 80s instead of a holiday-themed tune, I daresay it would’ve been a favorite. Here’s “Christmas Dreams.”

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