We have been both fans and supporters of the incredible Trans-Siberian Orchestra since we first heard the signature tune on Savatage’s “Dead Winter Dead” CD so long ago. Our yearly coverage of their show continues below, but we did not get to take any photos of the group in action. Hopefully the article sparks your own interest in attending and trust me its always well worth it.
Artist: Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Venue: Continental Airlines Arena (East Rutherford, NJ)
Label: Lava Records
The Holiday season would not be complete without my attending at least one of the area performances of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and by now the group is no longer a mystery to anyone. If you have listened to radio, seen videos and commercials on TV or watched YouTube.com, you have a very clear picture as to who they are and what they do. They have been around ten years now and this year would find no Madison Square Garden show and instead they would perform at both the Nassau Coliseum and the Continental Airlines Arena for the first time. We attended the Continental (or Meadowlands) show for all your eighties rockers, our vantage point would give us a very easy and complete view of the stage and its effects. After the opener of “March Of The Kings” the groups Narrator enters the stage and begins the tale of “Christmas Even And Other Stories”. If this sounds familiar then you are not imagining things for the beginning of the TSO show always follows format and performs their debut release in practically its entirety. It’s a formula that has worked for them, and no one really seems to complain. Over the last couple of years also the group has had some new members in its sometime rotating cast of players and after all these shows and numerous performances I am happy to say that both Jay Pierce and James Robert Lewis are incredible additions to the family. Historically, Jay replaced Daryl Pediford who passed away while Lewis fills in the space where Joe C. used to perform. Once again the players were in top form and this is to be expected for the core musicians in this East Coast Company have been the same for many years with Skolnick, Caffery, Kim, Kinkel, Plate, Z., and Wood. The amount of shows and years of professionalism they all bring to the table have them all making this look quite easy and a whole lot of fun.
The singers periodically rotate as the years go by but again this version has quite a few of the familiar faces. We always love the presence of Jennifer Cella, who beauty and grace are ever complimented by her melodic and hurricane vocal styles. Jen seems to have a lot more Hard Rocker in her than she might admit, and one day I would love to see her fronting a Power Metal group as she is years ahead of some of the existing people in this role. I look forward to continued brightness from this shining star. Jay Pierce once again delivered the most soulful performance of the night and given he had been filling very big shoes it could not have been easy when he came on board. I like to think that somewhere up above Mr. Pediford smiles down upon him. I’ve also become a great fan of James Robert Lewis, who I think brings a new level of style to the group. He is the raspy-bluesy rocker that adds a cool twist to the numbers he took over in the set. Let’s hope he gets a lot more numbers as newer material continues to be introduced. On top list of the vocal numbers we find that the ever so heartfelt “Old City Bar” often brings people to quiet sobs but I have been finding that it feels a little long in the live sense.
With the music being on point and full of high energy performances and the vocals above par we can address the always exciting stage effects that this enterprise employs. O’Neill and company never cease to amaze me with the level of spectacle that they choose to deliver to the audience. Smoke, fire, lasers, snow and rising platforms. While I know many consider The Who and Pink Floyd as attributing to their stage presence one can make no bones about it that many of these visual enhancements are KISS pure and simple. All of them coming from the playbook they wrote so long ago. Oddly enough it works well for TSO and their branded Christmas cheer and everyone is wide eyes and jaw dropped each and every night when they turn this stuff up. When CEAOS completed, the band gets introduced by Chris Caffery who for the first time in memory was not sporting his Elf hat. He lined out how at this very venue was where he saw a lot of the concerts of his youth and how it was so special to play here for everyone. Caffery is a pretty affable guy and the audience loves his personality and jokes. From there the group delivers several other Christmas numbers from the other two releases and also treats to some of the music from “Beethoven’s Last Night”, their non-Christmas release. A second non-holiday CD is in the making and to be called “Night Castle”; the audience got an untitled number once again and their version of “Carmina Burana”. The Beethoven stuff is terrific live and really employs those dramatic effects the best. I am personally a big fan of the fire jets that shoot up and there were so many this time around that you could feel them from almost everywhere. Some other new changes were when both Jennifer and Danielle appeared in the depths of the crowd to sing a number on a platform that had been set up for such purpose (this is the platform that as a closer rises above the audience). I thought this was a great idea as why use such a space only once in the night.
Orchestra creator Paul O’Neill came out to speak to everyone for a moment and he maintained how there were many surprises tonight. Over the last couple of years of performances, the audiences in some Cities were treated to notable guest stars that come out towards the end and perform a number with the Orchestra. I first experienced this when Joan Jett came out and did her signature hit “I Love Rock And Roll”. Tonight in New Jersey, when Paul O’Neill came to the stage to thank everyone he mentioned we would experience a surprise that was unforgettable and he detailed how while growing up certain bands were important to him. One such band was Emerson, Lake and Palmer or ELP to most. From there he introduced Greg Lake who led the band into a rousing version of “Karn Evil 9”, perhaps the most well-known of that bands songs. It was something to say the least and comes across as so powerful to see this many musicians performing a tune once done by only three. It had been blogged by Caffery that Jon Anderson of Yes had come out in another city and performed “Roundabout” so in truth at a TSO show you never quite know what you are going to get outside of a good time. As the night came close to an end the familiar notes of “Sarajevo” began once more with Chris and Dave running out to the crowd as they did last year to get to that platform. Once secured they would rise what seemed to be about 50-60 feet above the audience as the bombastic lights and smoke and the whole nine continued. Lake would also participate in the grand finale which I am sure everyone also enjoyed. Once again a good time at the TSO show, and I only hope that there has been sufficient film made for the time is right for a full concert DVD of this group. Yes I know there are two different companies who tour but by making a double DVD set those who have not seen the other finally can get to do so. If you have not attended one of these shows yet then you really should do so for it is a sensation year after year. This is my seventh year attending their shows and my ninth performance.
The Players: Chris Caffery (guitar), Alex Skolnick (guitar), Jeff Plate (drums), Dave Z. (bass), Bob Kinkel (keyboards), Mee Eun Kim (keyboards), Mark Wood (violin), Jennifer Cella (vocals), Steve Broderick (vocals), Heather Gunn (vocals), James Robert Lewis (vocals), Danielle Landherr (vocals), Peter Shaw (vocals), Jay Pierce (vocals), Tany Ling (vocals) & Brian Hicks (narrator).
The TSO Set List:
1. March Of The Kings
2. Narration Begins for “Christmas Eve & Other Stories”
3. An Angel Came Down
4. O’ Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night
5. Prince Of Peace
6. First Snow
7. A Mad Russians Christmas
8. Christmas Eve: Sarajevo 12/24
9. Good King Joy
11. Old City Bar
12. Promises To Keep
13. This Christmas Day
14. An Angel Returned
15. Band Intros by Chris Caffery
16. Christmas Nights In Blue
18. New Instrumental (Title TBA)
19. A Last Illusion
20. An Angels Share
21. Jeff Plate Drum Solo
23. Wizards In Winter
24. Christmas Canon Rock
25. Queen Of The Winter Night
26. Carmina Burana
27. Beethoven –
28. Requiem (the 5th)
29. Karn Evil 9
30. Sarajevo – Outro
Official Web site: www.trans-siberian.com