Review: Trans-Siberian Orchestra celebrates the season and so much more
In another era, what took place at PPG Paints Arena Friday night in Pittsburgh would not have been considered our grandparents’ Christmas music.
That didn’t stop grandparents, their grandchildren and all ages in between from enjoying and enthusiastically embracing the magic and majesty of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) in generous double performances, 26 songs at each presentation, attracting an estimated 12,000 at the 3 p.m. show and 13,000 at the 8 p.m. program.
It’s rare to find a style of music on which such a wide age span can agree. And it could be argued that it is not even necessary to be particularly into holiday numbers to appreciate TSO. which blends rock, classical, pop, blues, soul and other genres, into a colorful, story-based multi-generational program that is so much more than just seasonal.
What it is
This is visual and aural artistic expression on a cinematic scale and it’s a joy to just sit back and allow yourself to take this memorable journey.
This is full immersion TSO. This grand experiment created by the late Paul O’Neill 20 years ago has been wildly successful for a reason.
There’s really nothing else like it.
That’s why year after year people clear time in their busy schedules to make the band part of their holiday tradition, and bring friends and family along for their first time the next year to share the experience.
Not taken for granted
As veteran drummer Jeff Plate told the Trib earlier, “I think we have to approach every show like it’s our first show. You know, whether it’s the beginning, middle,or end of the tour, there’s always somebody in that audience who’s never seen us before, so you’ve got to go out there and give it your all and really, really play this like you mean it.”
TSO certainly did not disappoint Friday, playing with an intensity and joy that showcased the power and imagination of the music. Sharing the stage was a 10-voice (five females and five males) choir, a string section, instrumentalists who delivered with passion, an energetic, ever-mobile violinist and a story narrator (Bryan Hicks) who never fails to quickly win over the audience with his dulcet resonance: “Welcome friend! Our story starts with one small child,” he says. “If you change one night it’s possible to change a life.”
It was all complemented by a stunning on stage visual backdrop, choreographed lasers and other lights and flame-throwing fire pots from which fans close to the stage could feel the warmth.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra once again showcased O’Neill’s rock opera, “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” a timeless story of a runaway who finds her way into a mysterious abandoned theater where she is transformed by her dreams, or is it magic or both?
“Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24,” “O’ Come All Ye Faithful,” “Good King Joy,” “Christmas Canon,” “Music Box Blues,” “Promises To Keep” and “This Christmas Day” provide the musical path for her trek back to love and to her family.
Why we relate
“Everybody in the audience relates to the story of the ’Ghosts of Christmas Eve’” because everybody misses somebody, especially around Christmas,” said Pitrelli.“Ghosts” beautifully articulates the central themes of the story: reuniting, coming home, trying again.
Hicks, in his lovely recitation, reminded at the 3 p.m. show: “The magic of this night is, ‘No matter where we are in life, it is never too late.’ “
And this: “The things we do in life will always end up touching others.”
His message was reinforced as a choir member stepped forward to affirm, in “Promises to Keep”: “Christmas stays if we don’t forget its meaning …And the dream is still alive… it always will survive… Christmas has its promises to keep.”
In “This Christmas Day” the band celebrates the happy ending: “She’s coming home this Christmas Day. And all at once the world It doesn’t seem the same … Everything is now how it should be”
And, by concert’s end, it was indeed.
Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.