It’s hard to say what was the most over-the-top element of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra‘s Winter Tour, which hit the Xcel Center on December 27. Was it the flying torches? The exploding cannons? The manufactured snow falling down on the audience? The lasers? The musicians playing on flying platforms? In the end, it wasn’t one aspect but the combination of all of them that made TSO the most spectacularly glitzy event I’ve ever seen. Really, I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it. The closest thing I can think of to compare it to would be an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical. Maybe.
I enjoyed interviewing lead guitarist Al Pitrelli so much that I knew I had to go see the show, although I don’t really like Christmas music. Or heavy metal. I figured that I needed to approach the show like I would a cultural event on another planet: not to judge, but perhaps to appreciate.
The first two-thirds of the show had sort of a narrative storyline, although it was a bit confusing to follow. There was an angel, who journeyed to different parts of the world, including Sarajevo, and a homeless dude, and a bar, and a lost child.
Phillip Brandon narrated the show with his deep voice and commanding presence, conveying a message about doing good deeds, or something like that. Andrew Ross made the perfect angel with his rocker-long hair looking downright celestial under the lights.
The last third of the show moved away from the narrative and TSO pulled out their most show-stopping numbers, including a version of “Queen of the Night” with Kristin Gorman singing the famous soprono solo, notorious for its difficulty, while gyrating her hips and, yes, running down the aisle of the stadium (I’m still trying to figure out how she pulled that one off).
The musicians were fantastic—my favorite, of course, being Pitrelli, who just seemed to be having such a good time during the whole show. I also really liked the sexy Caitlin Moe on the violin.
In terms of the music: like I said, it’s not exactly my cup of tea, but all things considered, I was pretty impressed. Composer Paul O’Neill is able to pull off a fascinating juxtaposition of different styles—everything from classical to heavy metal, with a little blues and jazz thrown in. I especially liked the sections that went from pizzicato strings to jamming guitars and back without a beat. “Christmas Eve (12/24)” was my favorite, featuring local musicians from the Saint Paul Strings. In general, my favorite numbers were the ones where the Christmas Carols were so changed that they became unrecognizable.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad way to spend a Monday afternoon. The audience around me sure seemed to enjoy it. And if you have to do something that’s Christmasy, it’s at least a show that you won’t forget.