TSO brought their tour commemorating 25 years of Christmas Eve and Other Stories to the nation’s capital
If Trans-Siberian Orchestra released a live album it would undoubtedly be titled Christmas Spirit, for that is what TSO instills in every audience member who should be lucky enough to catch their wonder-filled winter tours. That was certainly the case last night (Christmas Eve-Eve) in Washington, DC at Capital One Arena.
It is tradition that the first half of each TSO Christmas feature an album performed in its entirety — both music and the narrative that threads the songs together. This tour celebrates the 25th anniversary of Christmas Eve and Other Stories, the original album by late visionary producer Paul O’Neil which began both TSO and their beloved Christmas trilogy. Afterwards, they spend some time performing hits from all of their releases — holiday and otherwise.
Tying the Christmas Eve and Other Stories segment together was TSO East storyteller Bryan Hicks. Hicks is a longtime fan favorite. He received the largest round of applause when guitarist Chris Caffrey introduced him after the full album portion had completed. And with good reason: Hicks’ rich voice is as layered and enchanting as any musical instrument.
Guitarist Caffrey emceed the evening, revving the crowd up with his antics. Musical director Derek Wieland could be seen conducting some beats while maintaining mastery of his keyboard. Tony Dickinson, Joel Hoekstra, Mee Eun Kim, and Jeff Plate return to the TSO East troupe on bass, guitar, keyboard, and drums respectively.
But it was violinist Roddy Chong who stole the show. He bound from one end of the stage to another, like a leaping sugarplum dancer. All wore the classic tailed coats, black vests and white open-buttoned shirt that has become part of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s image.
The staging, as well, continues to bring the signature TSO flair. Not wanting to spoil any of the Christmas gifts the Orchestra have in store for you, I’ll just say this: expect the amazing blend of complex lighting, over-the-top pyrotechnics, and moving set pieces that combine a new-yet-familiar way to create that trademark TSO Christmas magic.
Ten vocal powerhouses joined the rockers. Erika Jerry gave a soulful rendition of “Prince of Peace.” While Georgia Napolitano shined on power ballad “Promises to Keep.” Russell Allen hit highs with “This Christmas Day” and a joyous take on “Ornament.” Kayla Reeves brought the room to a stunned silence with “A Little Too Far.” Not a TSO song, it was a part of a rock opera by Savatage, an O’Neil project that was a direct predecessor to the Orchestra. In fact, “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” was first under Savatage.
I could go on and on. It was like unwrapping a new Christmas present each time a TSO vocalist opened their mouth. The songs were familiar, yet new. You see, TSO splits into two troupes every Christmas. There’s TSO West. and TSO East. This way they can perform a staggering four-show combined schedule in two cities each day during the height of the Yuletide season.
But this means that not everyone will hear the original vocalist on their favorite songs. What then, makes a TSO show…a TSO show? That answer is simple: the heart. Every artist on stage at a TSO show not only has a history with the band, but they have a true love for performing with it. Several artists–such as Whitesnake’s Hoekstra — take time away from their “day gigs” to spread the glam metal Christmas music so important to our holiday season. That love oozes from the stage like Christmas cookie icing from a piping bag.
And for this reporter needed to see that heart on stage. After a fall of personal loss, it was particularly difficult to find the Christmas Spirit this year. But like the Grinch felt his heart grow three sizes that day, that night in the Arena I felt my own heart well up with a love of the season I feared I had forgotten.
One of Storyteller Hicks’ last lines is, “May God keep you, and protect you, this and every Christmas Eve.” In that line is the essence behind what TSO’s ageless message: The wonder and joy and warmth of the Christmas spirit need not fill us only at year’s end, but all year round.
Now excuse me, as I need to fill myself with some (virgin) eggnog.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us here at The Music Universe!