Trans-Siberian Orchestra has become synonymous with Christmas season entertainment and now, nearly two decades after the release of their genre-defining debut album, their live show is as popular as ever. On Saturday at Orlando’s Amway Center two packed houses enjoyed a firsthand look at their amazing production.
The Wizards of Winter are back on the road this winter bringing their unique show to cities across the country. I wondered if a review of their show belonged on a website dedicated to Rock and Roll Animals.
So, let’s do multiple choice; What exactly is a Trans-Siberian Orchestra show? A. Rock Concert; B. Broadway Show; C. Opera; D. Christmas Pageant?
The answer: “E” – All of the Above. These guys rock, but it’s so much more than your standard rock concert. The best description, with all due respect to BNL has to be a Rock Spectacle.
I’ve heard folks knock them for being overly commercialized. They might be, but they clearly care about their fans. They stick around and sign autographs after the show, they give away programs and concert T-Shirts to lucky fans in the arena, and they donate serious cash to local charities.
Then there’s the refrain “they’re not a real rock band, their members change all the time.” They do, and truth be told, they have two touring bands during their hectic Christmas season. But, the core members have been together since they formed in 1993 as a band called Savatage. The same core group writes the music, designs the shows and then divides and conquers on the stages.
“OK, fine, they’re still just a big Broadway show, with nice actors, right?” Uh, no. These guys (and gals) can rock. Sure, they all have hair the Jennifer Aniston would kill for and look like Glamour models, but they are pure musicians, too. They play with an orchestra, feature an assortment of rotating vocalists, but make no mistake, their sound is powered by the seven primary band members – and they absolutely rock.
The first half of the concert primarily revolves around the band’s trilogy of Christmas albums. A storyteller weaves the thread tying all of the songs together, and features some of their bigger hits. The vocals are spectacular, the eight piece string section spot on, the keys magnificent, the drums and bass powerful, and the lead guitars excellent. It’s sort of Meatloaf meets Emerson Lake and Palmer, only in the 21st Century and with an amazing stage show. “First Snow,” “An Angel Returned” and “Christmas Eve Sarajevo” were the highlights.
This was my first full blown rock show in the new Amway Center, and the sound was great. We sat opposite the stage in the second level – a perfect spot to enjoy the full breadth of the show. The light show is the best I’ve ever seen, the lasers are fantastic, the pyrotechnics dynamic, and the sound was perfect. Add in a flying catwalk that raises up 40 feet over the crowd and spans the entire floor, and a telescoping 2nd stage on the floor, and you see some cutting edge stuff.
The second half of the show offered a bit more diversity from the band including a few strong songs from their Night Castles double album. This portion is a bit darker, with the selections punctuated by a heightened pyrotechnic and fireworks show. It was quite easy to forget we were inside. Throughout it all, the music was pristine and the band thoroughly entertaining. The best song of the night was their classic “Wizards in Winter.”
For “Queen of the Winter Night,” the female vocalist climbed onto the secondary stage at the back of the arena and blew the crowd away with her amazing vocals. The band then threw in a nice drum solo on the most tricked up drum kit I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a bunch…
As the night wound down, they kicked into a spirited dueling keyboards segment that included a cool Charlie Brown symphony, and then slid directly into one of their own classic Christmas tunes “Wish Liszt.” From there, 2 1/2 hours after we started our journey, they brought the house down with their finale, the reprise of “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo.”
All told, a family friendly rock and roll spectacle, well worth checking out.
Rock On – Cretin