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Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Date: 12/12/15
Venue: Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
Report By: Rich Catino


Before I talk about the show, giving credit where credit is due, the Trans Siberian Orchestra came from the heavy metal band Savatage. Savatage wrote and recorded the TSO Christmas holiday hit single ‘Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)’ for their 1995 album “Dead Winter Dead”. So with that, it makes sense every album since the TSO debut “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” (1996) has the members of Savatage as part of the rock band, with Savatage singer Jon Oliva a writer playing piano/keyboards, and Paul O’Neil, TSO mastermind, who also has served as producer/writer for Savatage since their classic album “Hall Of The Mountain King”. And, to boot, when TSO played some non-holiday shows in Europe, aside from Wacken in 2015, they added like eight Savatage songs to the setlist.

Every year, or every few, the show changes a bit, centering on a particular album/story(s). In 2015, “The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve” DVD, which focuses on songs from the first two albums. Joining the rock band on stage is also a small orchestra of strings, five to ten background ensemble singers, Jeff Plate (Savatage) on drums, and two keyboard players. Following the two opening instrumentals (including falling snow for ‘Winter Palace’), our story begins. Instrumentals have become, well instrumental, in the story telling and helping everyone get in the holiday spirit, sprinkled throughout the set (‘First Snow’, ‘Christmas Jam’ in set #2). Bill Hudson is a lucky man, on his first tour with TSO getting all the lead work for the classic ‘O Come All Ye Faithful / O Holy Night’, which he played note for note spot on.

The TSO lead singers, depending on what is needed for each song it could be a male or female voice. The men were up first, for the more somber ‘The Lost Christmas Eve’, Russell Allen on the bluesy ‘Good King Joy’, and Zak Stevens (Savatage) on ‘Christmas Dreams’. Also, TSO cherry pick outstanding females who are as strong as the men. A duet for ‘Christmas Canon Rock’ joined by two more for the counterpoint harmonies, ‘Music Box Blues’ featuring (sorry, if I get the names of the lovely ladies wrong) Lisa Lavie, and Georgia Napolitano on ‘Promises to Keep’. ‘This Christmas Day’ closes out the first set in the spirit of the holiday as the girl in the story decides to return home.

Set two the song selection changes with attention away from the Christmas songs a little, and so does the vibe of the show. Still its TSO, but a little more Savatage as Chris Caffery gets to let loose and do a little more metal lead work on ’Wizards Of Winter’, and then there’s the darker theme melody to ‘A Mad Russian’s Christmas’. ‘Christmas Nights in Blue’ is a bluesier bar room jam, while ‘Christmas Jam’, and ‘Madness of Men’ (“Letters From The Labyrinth”) keeps the second half rocking hard and sets the stage for what is next. Keeping with the change in atmosphere, and speaking of the Tage, ‘The Mountain’ from the album “Night Castle”, in its original title is ‘Prelude To Madness” from “Hall Of The Mountain King”. As a long time Savatage fan, it’s obvious O’Neil has always wanted to do this level of presentation for the song, as a dragon appears on the video screens, lasers and burst of flames emerge on stage, as Caffery and violinist are raised in the air and out across the audience on these steel crane arms. The second set ends the set back to the holiday tunes and ‘Forget About the Blame’ from the new album “Letters From The Labyrinth”, ‘Find Our Way Home’ (with Russel Allen on lead vocal), and a reprise of their mega-hit ‘Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)’. O, and if all this spectacle is not enough, fireworks go off.

Not only is the success of TSO a success for hard rock music and the abilities of heavy metal artists, but equally important for the underrated catalogue of music from Savatage, the Oliva brothers Criss and Jon, its past and present members, and Paul O’Neil. Trans Siberian Orchestra masterfully used the blueprint of Savatage to compose varied and dynamic holiday Christmas music that can appeal to any age, generation, race, or religion because of its basic ability to be secular in its message. All this while maintaining the power, musicianship, dynamics, and edge of heavy metal music. And what a shame, how so many for so many years thought heavy metal music was all noise, yelling and screaming. Vindication…better late than never.


Set 1: The Ghosts of Christmas Eve

Time and Distance (The Dash)
Winter Palace
The Lost Christmas Eve
O Come All Ye Faithful / O Holy Night
Good King Joy
Christmas Dreams
Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)
Christmas Canon Rock
What Child Is This?
Music Box Blues
First Snow
Promises to Keep
This Christmas Day

Set 2:

Wizards in Winter
A Mad Russian's Christmas
For the Sake of Our Brother
Christmas Nights in Blue
Christmas Jam
Madness of Men
The Mountain
Forget About the Blame
Find Our Way Home
Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (Reprise)


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