Friday, December 21, 2007

Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas Tour 2007

It's getting pretty close to the big day ... Christmas that is, so I thought I'd try to squeeze in a few reviews of Christmas theme albums this week, so check back frequently (wink,wink). I'm hoping to have 5 posts between now and Christmas Day.

My festive spirit starts on the day of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas concert. This year I caught them twice. Once with a friend (their first show) and once on my own sitting in the floor seats 10 rows back. So I thought it fitting to start this Christmas series with a little run down of the shows.

Both were essentially identical with a few new faces this year, mainly the Bass player Chris Altenhoff who stepped into Dave Z's shoes and a female backing vocalist Alexa Goddard. And gone was Tany Ling the opera singer who delighted us with "Queen Of The Winter Night" off of The Lost Christmas Eve album.

The first half of the show as always is the heartwarming story of an Angel who must bring back a gift to his Lord from the Earth and his journey. The first half has slightly changed over the years with the addition of songs from the new album, but essentially has stayed the same.

From the opening notes of "Angel Came Down" underscoring Brian Hicks' booming narrative, we are whisked away with the Angel on his search.

I always look forward to the song "O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night" simply for the moving drop/hanging note played by Alex Skolnick at the end of the song. One of my favourite bits. Over the years he has flourished it with some fancy finger work which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, but this year he nailed it.

The other highlights of the first half are Jay Pierce's blues/jazz song "Prince Of Peace" whose reigns he took over from Daryl Pediford after Daryl's passing. Jay has really made this song his own and has fun with it.

Jennifer Cello belts out a power balled version of "Promises To Keep" which I adore as well as the "Christmas Canon Rock" which she leads.

And don't worry Steve Broderick continues to ruin my favourite TSO song "Old City Bar" each and every year. Don't get me wrong, he sings the song well (think Soul Asylum-ish) but he slows it down, which for a song whose running time is over 6 min. it just seems to drag. That and the albums raw and gritty sound is brilliant and therefore, I'm always left disappointed.

"First Snow" is fun with the fake snowfall added for interaction and the radio abused "Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24" is always a crowd pleaser.

After a short break with band and singer introductions mc'd by Chris Caffery, TSO delves into a mish mash of other Christmas songs as well as some of Beethoven's Last Night material for the 2nd half.

James Lewis starts the 2nd half off with "Christmas Nights In Blue" with a hymn like/classic rock cover of "Proud Mary" thrown in for fun. The band also busts out "Christmas Jam" which is fun.

"Beethoven's Fifth" is a heavy and dark tune that I look forward to in part cause of the grandiose pyro, the same with "Figaro".

The highlight for me is the superb cover of Carl Orff's "O' Fortuna" which is gothic and heavy and one the freakiest pieces of music period. This tune is to be featured on the bands up-coming 5th release and 2nd non-Christmas album Night Castle .... eventually.

Other highlights are "A Last Illusion" with its "Flight Of The Bumble Bee" melody split with another Christmas Carol from Lost Christmas Eve. I preferred it when they kept "A Last Illusion" with "Ode To Joy" at the like the album version, but I guess they should mix up the set list a bit. The band has fun with this song though.

And the evening wouldn't be over without an encore performance of "Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24" which they cap the concert of with using more pyro and I rising platform that Chris Caffery and guest (this year was Steve Broderick filling in on guitar). An energetic and fun close to an entertaining and heartwarming concert.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is the show I catch every year. I been going ever since they started touring Canada around 5 odd years ago. The music is fun and energetic and full of Christmas spirit. It has grown into a huge show with pyro and fireworks and one heck of a bang for your buck.

Add to it the killer drum solo by Jeff Plate (not enough concerts feature drum solo's anymore) and the chance to meet and get autographs after each show and you have a very memorable night out.

Up next I'll be reviewing Tran-Siberian Orchestra's 2nd release "The Christmas Attic" being posted tomorrow. Till then feel free to catch up on my review of their first album "Christmas Eve And Other Stories" here


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