Artist: Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Venue: Prudential Center (New York, NY)
Label: Lava Records
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” as the familiar holiday song would sing and that meant that once again we would be indulging ourselves in the sounds and sights brought forth by incredible Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Before I headed out to the event I sat back and tried to gauge just how long I had been supporting the group and while I had been a fan since the beginning (even though I missed the very first tour), I had apparently spent most of my journalistic career with this enterprise. In terms of numbers, that meant I started writing these articles around 2003 and began doing them on the TSO shows as well. Since we were in 2010 now, I was soon going to be walking into my eighth Holiday season as a scribe and fan of this juggernaut of an act. The amount of years seeing these shows is truly making it harder and harder to offer up critique that stresses more than “you need to see it to believe it” but I will still give it a go to the best of my ability. The show interested me for a couple of other different reasons this time around and the first would be based on the choice of arena. For the last few years the show had taken place at the Izod Center over in the Meadowlands in East Rutherford NJ and for the NYC fans with no cars, this was always an adventurous trip to make. The group had moved there from Madison Square Garden which I will venture to guess was a cost effective decision since everything in the Big Apple seems to be going through the roof in terms of price. With the show now in Newark, NJ, the journey would be a decent PATH train ride for people like me and one that let its fans off with only a five minute walk to the arena. This was a no fuss no muss kind of trip in all honesty and one I would make again for bands if I had tickets.
The stage was once again a magnificent display of technology and way up above their appeared to be ramps of some kind that jutted out over the audiences heads for a serious amount of rows. Of course I could not yet determine their function as we were very early in the event but I was sure they would come into use sooner or later. When the lights went out the band arrived to the song “Night Enchanted” from their “Night Castle” album which was finally released last year to critical response. This was the second non-Holiday album in the bands catalogue. To mix things up a bit this year they followed it with “Beethoven” which is a tune we normally do not hear until the second act of the show. I liked how they decided to mess with convention because for many years the show has been on the similar side. From here began as expected the narration and presentation of “Christmas Eve and Other Stories”. This is now officially to be considered one of true holiday classics in terms of music and I shall not take any other opinion into view. I am sorry but I am that passionate about it. Continuing along, the music was as tight as ever and as I watched the people on the stage I realized that I was seeing a whole new batch of players along with some who had returned. Gone from the stage was James Pierce so we got no “Prince Of Peace” tonight. Apparently the singer was now behind the scenes helping the others come to perfection at the show. I missed him but that is a great use of his talent. Also missing was Alex Skolnick who has been super busy with both Testament and his jazz combo. I’ve viewed Skolnick as one of the busiest men in music since having the pleasure to meet him a few years ago and really suggest you support his other activities as well. Taking over for Alex would be Joel Hoekstra who is not only a member of Night Ranger but also part of the cast of Broadway’s “Rock Of Ages”. He is definitely a solid player and I like his sound so welcomed him to the lineup. Anna Phoebe was gone as well and I LOVED what she was like onstage but in her place we had the talented Roddy Chong. There was also no Bob Kinkel for the first time in forever and Johnny Lee Middleton had returned to the West Coast Company of the TSO. Lucky for us we got David Z. back as he was missed by many of the younger fans while the older ones pined for the Savatage greatness of Middleton. Whew. There was a lot of different stuff to absorb for sure and at times I had to make sure I was sitting enjoying the show than taking more notes than a college lecture.
Luckily for all the fans Mr. Chris Caffery was in place and his usual self in terms of the show and being its spokesman between the two acts. He is always quick with a corny joke and being one of the visual players we get to enjoy during the show. As one of the main Metal heads in the group, he just has to love the giant stages that get set up for this enterprise. After introducing the members of the TSO for the season he brought out the group’s founder in the leather jacketed Paul O’Neill and he is always happy to be here and see the response that his creation gets. He once again told us to stick around and not miss a moment. I could not see why this wouldn’t be the case as we were at the matinee show. From here the event got super heavy as both “Mozart And Memories” were delivered into “The Mountain”. Each of these come from the “Night Castle” album but had an earlier incarnation on some legacy Savatage releases. Tim Hockenberry comes out and sings “Believe” which initially set some of the Tage fans on their ear because they just hated anyone other than Jon Oliva singing it but let’s face it…..Jon does NOT sing for the TSO and the group is allowed to use material that O’Neill helped pen in the first place. Get over it and move on and stop pining for a Savatage reunion. I really don’t think we shall ever see this.
As the night went on O’Neill came back out and spoke of the upcoming Broadway play “Gutter Ballet” that he is essentially working on with the TSO creative teams. In short this is essentially material that became Savatage music but it was originally intended to have a very different life and soon enough the Great White Way will be able to enjoy it. Personally I don’t really believe that material such as this was supposed to be anything but the Hard Rock and Metal we enjoyed on both the “Streets” and “Gutter Ballet” but who am I to argue with the dude who wrote most of it in the first place. Paul introduced us all to the talented Kayla Reeves who sang the Savatage ballad “Sleep” and then did a slow, bluesy version of “Help” by The Beatles. I did not like this rendition at all but was told by a fellow music scribe how that song was originally supposed to sound just like that as opposed to the poppy, radio friendly fare we found on the dial so many years ago. Despite my reservation Miss Reeves does have a great voice and she is only eighteen years old so has plenty to offer her fans. The audience seemed to like her which was good for her to see being the case and after a few more selections that are often part of the show, the flame shooting, fireworks exploding and laser shooting spectacle had come to an end. Oh yes those long ramps I spoke of earlier did come down and were about twelve feet above my head as the group ran back and forth. Even though I knew we were safe I was shaking a little in my boots at the idea of something so big just over me. It also had me wondering how this show could get any bigger next year and I smiled when I realized that it would.
In the end another rousing show and one that left the audience breathless. A couple of the singers I need to get used to but this is the kind of enterprise that will see a lot of talented people coming through. We are always going to get musicians coming and going in this and who knows, perhaps one day even Caffery will not be up there to see. If you have not yet seen this experience then you must do it at least once. I have been fortunate enough to take parents and friends who had no idea what to expect and each of them still talk about the show they saw again and again. It’s that enjoyable and while I often pine for the release of a full on concert DVD I can agree that this might be something better left to the imagination until you get inside to experience it for yourself. This coming Spring the Trans-Siberian Orchestra will once again tour for the “Beethoven’s Last Night” album and deliver some other material from “Night Castle”. There have also been reports that this will finally make the journey across the Atlantic to perform at some of the Festivals over there. I am not too sure how this will be received but no matter what happens the audience will get a show like never before. Oh by the way, The Prudential Center worked out great as a venue. It is a magnificent arena and the sound was fantastic. See you next year.
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra East Coast Company 2010: Chris Caffery (guitar), Joel Hoekstra (guitar), Tim Hockenberry (vocals), Jeff Plate (drums), James Lewis (vocals), Jason Wooten (vocals), David Z. (bass), Georgia Napolitano (vocals), Derek Wieland (keyboards), Natalya Piette (vocals), John Brink (vocals), Autumn Guzzardi (vocals), Erika Jerry (vocals), Roddy Chong (violin), Bryan Hicks (narrator), Kayla Reeves (vocals), Luci Butler (keyboards).
1. Night Enchanted
3. Angel Came Down
4. Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night
5. Music Box
6. First Snow
7. A Mad Russian’s Christmas
8. Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 (Savatage cover)
9. Good King Joy
11. Old City Bar
12. Promises to Keep
13. This Christmas Day
14. An Angel Returned
15. Mozart and Memories
16. The Mountain
18. Queen Of The Winter Night
19. Toccata – Carpimus Noctem (Moonlight & Madness intro)
20. Sleep (Savatage cover)
21. Help (The Beatles cover)
22. Christmas Canon Rock
23. The Nutrocker
24. Siberian Sleigh Ride
25. An Angel’s Share
26. Wizards in Winter
27. Requiem (The Fifth)
28. Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 (Reprise)
Oh I thought you might like this as its a tad strange but fun at the same time. This year I decided to amp up my leather jacket with some holiday ornaments because while the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a holiday themed Christmas show, it also features a bunch of musicians that I have reported about in the Hard Rock and Metal scene. I kept it simple and added these two large gold painted plastic Santas and used a glittery scarf that I used to sport when I was in a band many years ago. The small Santa face is a tree ornament, but was used as a laminate of some sort this year. Maybe I will do this every time I go to see the TSO. The next couple of shots are of the Prudential Center. It was a really nice looking arena. These are outside shots though.
Here’s a shot of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra stage after is was all done. Look at all those screens and moving parts. Its like a Goliath of technology.
I cannot stress enough how incredible this is as a musical and visual experience. Be sure to at least try to see them once if you can. It’s very worth it.
Official Website: http://www.trans-siberian.com