Much like the smell of cookies in the oven, the scent of a fresh cut pine tree or the ringing of the bell in front of your favorite store – the night of a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert is full of holiday excitement and almost childlike glee. As I filed into the Quicken Loans Arena with about 20,000 of my friends the first thing I noticed was the fact that pretty much every age group was represented and not just by a handful of any one age group. I seen literally hundreds – actually more like thousands of folks in their elder years as well as an equally large number of young children, there with their parents or sometimes –their grandparents – all gathered to take in one of the last few spectacle style rock shows still touring.
TSO isn’t just about music – it’s about belonging, it’s about acceptance, it’s about love. I know that may seem to be an odd turn of phrasing when you settle in to read about a rock concert but if you were there on Dec. 29th and were a part of the event, I don’t need to explain to you why I choose that phrase – for those of you who were not in attendance – I’ll do the best I can to verbally paint the most vivid picture I can.
2017 was a tough year for TSO – a tough year for fans of TSO. Two integral members of the family were lost – bassist David Z. and founder of the band Paul O’Neil both passed away during the course of the year, obviously leaving fans and band members reeling. During Friday nights show – reference was made and reverence was given but the joy of the music carried everyone through the sadness.
Starting the show with their now classic presentation of The Ghosts of Christmas Eve – which relies heavily on their album Christmas Eve And Other Stories and the PBS special that album spun – we are treated to narrator Bryan Hicks whose booming voice relates the story we’ve all seen every year on TV. A breathtaking hour of music highlighted by the TSO staple Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 – a song that always brings the house down – and an amazing guitar performance of Oh Holy Night by Joel Hoekstra that if you don’t get goosebumps as your standing there letting the sounds wash over you – then you need to check your pulse. All that coupled the always-amazing light and pyro technique show makes this one of the best hours of your life that you’re likely ever going to have.
This year the stage set up was changed from previous years as the drums would rise and fall as the show shifted from narration to musical performance and during the narrations part the stage took on the likeness of the theater that we all know from the PBS special – when it was time for a musical number – the drums would fall back to floor level and the concert would continue – such an easy effect but so very powerful, theatrical and appealing.
One might think that that presentation in and of itself would be enough of a show but hell no – TSO was just getting warmed up. Longtime guitarist Chris Caffery asked the crowd how TSO did with their presentation of The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve and then immediately launched into another 90 minutes worth of TSO hits. The stage rose and fell – lasers blasted, lights flashed, smoke rolled and flames shot. Breathtaking at every blink of the eye – the amount of detail spent on the multi-media and eye appeal of the show cannot and should not be taken for granted. While the musical prowess of the band is unmatched – the overwhelming video display makes you feel like you are a part of something much greater – it is larger than life and over the top and to this day still one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen.
Once you’ve seen the band live you will forever relive the experience every time you hear one their songs on the radio at Christmas time. Leaving the show that night it was great seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces and watching complete strangers talk to one another as if they’ve been friends for decades. This band breeds a comradery – a joining of spirits that makes everyone in attendance a part of their family and by the end of each show we are all just at a giant family reunion, sharing stories, being glad to see one another, shaking hands and hugging and when all is said and done– is there a better Christmas message that you could possibly think of? Why would you possibly not want to be a part of that?
Having the luck of being able to call Cleveland home brings a special treat for fans at a TSO show as they end each and every concert in town with a stirring rendition of Cleveland Rocks that officially turns the night into a party and leaves no one in their seats.
Being at that show on Friday night lit a fire of hope for the New Year that I plan to carry all the way till the next time that I am blessed enough to stand in front of their stage and recharge that holiday battery.