Photos courtesy of Bob Carey, Lewis Lee, and Mark Weiss
It’s only fitting that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra would end its 100-show, 65-city 2012 holiday tour in Ohio.
After all, the band’s touring success started right here in the Buckeye state.
The group, brought in by Live Nation, will perform Dec. 30 at Nationwide Arena.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a progressive rock band renowned for its holiday shows, was founded in 1993 by producer, composer and lyricist Paul O’Neill. O’Neill was no newcomer to the music business – he had managed and produced such bands as Aerosmith, Humble Pie, the Scorpions, AC/DC and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, as well as Savatage, whose members would go on to form the core of TSO.
The group would not begin performing live until 1999. That’s when Bill Louis, a radio DJ and friend of O’Neill’s, convinced him to put on a show in Cleveland.
Though the band had never performed live before, the show was a hit, and the band’s success and wide appeal exploded almost overnight.
“We agreed to do the show and it sold out in four days,” says O’Neill. “(Louis) said, ‘Can you do another?’ and it sold out in four days, too … and then we did another and it sold out.”
That year, TSO performed a handful of other concerts, including gigs in Upper Darby, New York City, Chicago and Detroit. But that was just the beginning.
Today, TSO is known for its elaborate concerts complete with a string section, a light show, lasers, pyrotechnics, moving trusses, video screens and special effects all synchronized to music.
And this year’s show promises even more. Not only will it have all new special effects and music, it will have an intriguing story line as well.
After 13 years, TSO is unveiling a new Christmas tour: The Lost Christmas Eve. O’Neill is excited to share the new show, based on the group’s 2004 album of the same name, with audiences.
“It’s one thing to write and record it,” he says. “But it’s not real until you perform it in front of a live audience.”
The Lost Christmas Eve is the final show in TSO’s Christmas Trilogy series of albums and is about a wealthy businessman who earlier abandoned his son to the state. Later, the man tries to undo his mistake and reunite with his son. Some elements in the show include a rundown hotel, an old toy store, a blues bar and a Gothic cathedral, all intertwined during a single Christmas Eve in New York.
“The show is about hope and redemption,” O’Neill says, “and communicates that it’s never too late to undo mistakes.”
During the show, TSO will perform the entire 23-song album featuring R&B, rock, classical, folk and Broadway elements. The show will also include music from TSO’s brand-new fall release, a five-track EP titled Dreams of Fireflies, as well as some well-known favorites.
The Lost Christmas Eve is a rock opera with a relevant and timeless message, and the band is no stranger to rock operas. Its other such productions include the other installments in the Christmas Trilogy, 1996’s Christmas Eve and Other Stories and 1998’s The Christmas Attic, as well as 2000’s Beethoven’s Last Night and 2009’s Night Castle, and all have been wildly successful. In fact, the band has consistently ranked as one of the top 10 ticket-selling bands, and has sold more than 8 million albums.
TSO’s unique approach to music accounts for part of its success, but it also helps that the band appeals to a very broad audience. The typical concert will draw attendees from ages 9 to 90.
“Everyone has rock in common,” O’Neill says. “And when we can jump the generational divide, that feels the best.”
A TSO performance is also a great way to expose the younger generation to classical music, says O’Neill.
“Mozart was the first rock star,” he says, “and Beethoven was the first to (experiment with) heavy metal.”
When kids see these elements together, they develop a whole new appreciation for classical music, he says.
Finally, O’Neill says, TSO is successful because there seems to be a greater need for live music than ever before, especially in an age when technology, social media and video games keep people alone and at home.
“It’s important for humans to interact, and when you’re at a live show in Nationwide Arena, you pick up energy from other people,” says O’Neill. “You have this magical night in common.”
When the tour ends in Columbus, it will be back to work for TSO. The group will head to the studio to work on a piece titled Romanov: When Kings Must Whisper. Based on the 1917 Russian Revolution, this work has been on the back burner since 1993, and O’Neill is excited at the prospect of seeing it released soon.
Sherri M. Gordon is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.