Artist: The Trans-Siberian Orchestra “Christmas Eve & Other Stories Tour 2003”
Venue: Beacon Theater, NYC
Every Holiday Season, The Beacon Theater in New York City has been the place where the power symphony known as Trans-Siberian Orchestra makes its home for a couple of nights. This year will mark the 5th Anniversary of such performances. The venue itself holds a little over 3,200 people and every seat in the place is terrific. On top of excellent views, one cannot mistake the quality of the sound in the room. Among the best acoustics I have ever experienced. This will be my 4th year in a row attending a Trans-Siberian Orchestra performance (The TSO for short). It is officially a Christmas Tradition for my Friends and I. Each year it’s a spectacle that gets bigger and better each time.
For those that are unfamiliar with this group, let me provide some background. The TSO is the brainchild of Paul O’Neill, Jon Oliva and Robert Kinkel. Music fans will remember Jon Oliva as the former lead singer and also keyboard player of the heavy metal supergroup “Savatage”. Paul has been a principle writer of many of the group’s most successful albums to date including “Hall Of The Mountain King”, “Gutter Ballet”, “Streets: A Rock Opera” & “Dead Winter Dead”. As a matter of fact it was on “Dead Winter Dead” where the crossover hit of “Christmas Eve: Sarajevo” made its first appearance. Mr. Kinkel has had substantial music background in acts of such renown as the Police, Who, and Genesis. In the TSO, he serves as Musical Director and producer of the albums. Bob plays the keyboards in the East Coast Company as well.
I wanted to make mention that being in New York we get the East Coast Company of the TSO. In my opinion this is a great thing, because it includes members of Savatage who I really enjoy seeing play. I am talking about Chris Caffery on the guitar as well as Jeff Plate on the drums. When I last checked, Johnny Lee Middleton and Al Pitrelli (also Tage members) were part of the West Coast Company. For a few years running, we also had Alex Skolnick of Testament in the ECC.
The evening begins with the sounds of “Christmas Canon” being played across the venue speakers. I have also heard “Silk And Steel” which is a beautiful guitar piece performed by the late Cris Oliva of Savatage. Suddenly, the booming voice of the Narrator comes on to say ‘Ladies & Gentlemen Please Welcome Home The Trans-Siberian Orchestra’. The performers appear and start a rousing rendition of “Boughs Of Holly” (from the Christmas Attic CD)’. The elaborate lighting systems beginning to give the audience an idea of what is in store.
Now accompanied by Bob Kinkel on keyboards, the Narrator walks out and begins to tell the tale of a man sitting in an Old City Bar who starts talking to a stranger one Christmas Eve. The music that follows is the story that the two men discuss. As the stage becomes a star-filled night sky, Singer Rob Evans comes forth and performs “An Angel Came Down”. This powerful tune sets the mood for the show, with lights shining behind Bob as if he was sent down from Heaven. At this point the entire musical score performed will be the material from the CD entitled “Christmas Eve and Other Stories”. Like the CD itself, it is best to see this done from start to finish. It seems every time I choose to play this particular CD, I end up listening to the whole thing.
A smooth figure walks onstage, the one and only Daryl Pediford. He is one of the performers on the “Christmas Attic” CD. He performs “Prince Of Peace” and he exudes passion and soul when he sings. The audience really loves him. As “First Snow” begins – snow actually began to fall on the audience. This was a new treat effects wise as I don’t recall this happening on previous tours. It was real snow as Chris opened his mouth to catch some. The snow was only the beginning as lasers began an electrifying display that made this a very enjoyable number. I find this tune has a very Electric Light Orchestra feel to it especially around the chorus area (now this is an instrumental, but I think when you hear it you will know what I mean).
“A Mad Russians Christmas” is a very jumping number, full of life and energy. As the Narrator continues his tale of the Angels flight around the world we come to the groups signature piece of ‘Christmas Eve Sarajevo’. Suddenly the stage fills with smoke while the lights flash dramatically as if a war was taking place. Seeing this piece performed live is truly amazing. I found my jaw dropped open with the display of lights and powerful chords. This tune seems to gain a more and more powerful effect on the audience as tours go on. Their response is thunderous.
“Ornament” sung by Joe Cerisano is a great tune of a Father singing his prayer about his long lost Daughter and how he spending his holidays alone. The Angel in the story finds this prayer on a star. The next couple of songs deal with this part of the tale. Among the most heart-wrenching pieces is called “Old City Bar”. Accompanied only by acoustic guitar of Tristan Avakian, comes singer Steve Broderick (who walks out dressed as a transient). This is the song that tells of a barkeepers kindness to someone who had no where else to turn for help. Needless to say people find themselves misty-eyed during this one. Yes, even me. Tristan is a killer guitar player and at first I was saddened to see someone new in the line. However, his clean and crisp playing style won me over instantly. Tristan has worked with Lauren Hill and Biohazard among others (talk about diverse). “This Christmas Day” is part two of “Ornament” in a sense as Joe C. comes back out now knowing that his Daughter is returning to him. One again Robert Evans joins the musicians to perform “An Angel Returned”.
The Narrator comes back out and closes out the “Christmas Eve” story and wishes the audience a Merry Christmas. While one feels as the show is over, it is but midway at this point. Chris Caffery comes out with a super long tailed Santa’s helper hat an introduces the TSO to New York. Readers will find it interesting that the Performers rotate from time to time, but this is mostly because there are over 15 people on stage. Their names are listed for your review.
The TSO 2003 East Coast Company:
Chris Caffery (Guitar), Robert Kinkel (Keyboards & Musical Director), David Z. (Bass), Jeff Plate (Drums), Tristan Avakian (Guitar), Mark Wood (Strings), Allison Lovejoy (Keyboards), Robert Evan (Vocals), Steve Broderick (Vocals), Daryl Pediford (Vocals), Joe Cerisano (Vocals), Jennifer Cella (Vocals), Danielle Lendherr (Vocals), Allie Sheridan (Vocals) & Brian Hicks (Narrator). In addition to the core Performers, there is an added Strings section of cellos & violins. However the members are seldom the same from night to night. Instead they are actually local area musicians who do the show while often seeing the music that day.
Absent from this years touring Company was Alex Skolnick (formerly the guitarist of Testament and Savatage) and Mee Eun Kim on keyboards. Alex chose to pursue his jazz efforts and I am unsure what became of Ms. Kim. As Chris Caff announced the members he commented on how the audience was louder this particular evening than that of the previous night. It is always fun to be considered in attendance at the “better crowd” show. He was also wearing a NY Rangers hockey jersey which in true NYC fashion was met with mixed response. As a Rangers Fan myself I enjoyed this. Chris also made a joke at how when the Trans-Siberian Orchestra was testing their new light systems this year, that they accidentely caused the blackout that we faced over here. While he was kidding I have added a satellite pic of this for your benefit. Core-Creator Paul O’Neill then came out at one point to thank everyone and announced that we could expect another Christmas CD in 2004 called ‘Lost Christmas Eve’ & that a full tour to support ‘Beethoven’s Last Night’ can be expected for 2005.
Chris asked the audience who had the “Beethoven’s Last Night” CD, and the applause showed that most folks did indeed have it. From there they shot into several excellent numbers. BLN has several awesome instrumentals on it, among them “A Last Illusions” (which has a little “Flight Of The Bumblebee” mixed in it). “Mozart” is a hard rock version of Figaro, and then comes “Beethoven” and “Requiem, the 5th”. All the while lasers and the newly added pyrotechnic flames shooting up behind the players. One could feel the heat in the lower rows. Talk about intense.
There were a few of new numbers performed. One is from the forthcoming new Christmas CD but I don’t think I got the name (I don’t recall them saying it). A moody version of “Carmina Burana” by Orff and Tchaikovskys “Nutcracker Suite” (though Chris explained this was done via ELPs version). Suddenly Jeff Plate (Drummer also of Savatage) tears into a killer drum solo. This was nice because this is the first tour that he has done this. Combine this with his use of a Roland V-Drum set and it was a real treat. It is also nice to see someone kicking ass on a set of electronic drums.
As the show draws to a close they begin a portion of “Christmas Eve: Sarajevo” once again. This time, Chris runs offstage and through the audience. He makes his way to the top balcony of the venue and does his solo. He looks over the balcony and literally the entire place is on its feet screaming. and the audience response to this is a standing ovation. On his return to stage as the Grande Finale with all pyrotechnics being shot off the show ended. Chris thanks the audience who has not sat down since the song began and wishes us “Merry Christmas, See You Next Year”.
One final piece of cool was the fact that the members of the TSO do a meet and greet for those that wish to stay around for a few minutes after the performance ends. I am not sure that this done at every venue, since some of them hold so many people. Yet, in the Beacon the band did do this so I was able to say hello and take some candid pictures with them (and get my tourbook signed which I always like to have). Some pics are here for you also.
I wanted to add that sometimes a TSO show can have a have a surprise or two. In 2002, the audience was treated to a surprise as singer/guitarist Joan Jett came out and performed ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ with the Group. I was at this show and enjoyed the surprise. Dee Snider was also in the audience that evening, but he did not go on stage. No guests came out this year at the New York shows and Friends who attended the night before confirmed the set to be the exact same one I saw.
All in all this was yet another spectacular show which I enjoyed thoroughly. If any of the readers are making a New York City, US visit around the December months next year they should investigate this. They will not be disappointed. I have included the weblinks necessary for you to find out more. Be sure to read Chris’ tour diary for 2003 as it is a great look inside the day to day tour activity and also to hear some of what Chris is planning on his forthcoming solo CD.
As you can see, the set list is quite long as the TSO performs for a little over 2.5 hours. You truly get your moneys worth when you go see them. I have posted a complete listing based on what was played though one title I am not certain of.
1. Boughs Of Holly
2. Narration Begins
3. An Angel Came Down
4. O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night
5. The Prince Of Peace
6. First Snow (snows and lasers)
7. A Mad Russian’s Christmas
8. Christmas Eve: Sarajevo
9. Good King Joy
11. The First Noel
12. Old City Bar
13. Promises To Keep
14. This Christmas Day
15. An Angel Returned
16. Band Introductions (by Chris Caffery)
17. Music Box
18. Three Wiseman & I (What Really Happened)
19. A Last Illusion
20. Mozart (Figaro)
21. Carmina Burana (Orff piece)
22. Nutcracker Suite (Via Tchaikovsky Via Emerson Lake & Palmer)
23. Jeff Plate Drum Solo
24. An Angels Share
25. World That He Sees
26. A Christmas Canon (heavier not choral)
28. Requiem (5th Symphony)
29. Find Our Way Home
30. Christmas Eve: Sarajevo – Finale
“Merry Christmas Everyone” & “Happy New Year” To Everyone!!!!
Check out the releases by the TSO via these Amazon.com Codes below:
Editor’s Note: This article was written for another medium prior to the 2005 launch of PiercingMetal.com and has been added to our content for your enjoyment.