Trans-Siberian Orchestra Live In Vancouver: Nov. 30, 2007

Spread the metal:

Friday, November 30, 2007
General Motors Place
Vancouver, BC  Canada


***Live Review By Lord of The Wasteland

(***NOTE: Photo approval was not granted for this show)


Since its inception almost a dozen years ago, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has brought its brand of over-the-top bombast to traditional Christmas songs in the live setting.  For many, it’s as much of a tradition to see the band in one of its two live touring ensembles—one west coast, one east coast—as the presents, turkey, cranberries and stuffing that comes along with the holiday.  The band’s stage show and lighting is legendary, as is the musicianship that conveys the original vision of the compositions of Paul O’Neill and Robert Kinkel.  Being this was Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s first visit to Vancouver, I was curious to see if the real thing could live up to the hype.


Boasting nine vocalists, a narrator, a pair of guitarists, a string section and five other musicians, the colossal stage at General Motors Place was necessary to facilitate the epic spectacle of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra experience.  I say “experience” because this is far removed from any concert I have ever witnessed, dwarfing even the mighty KISS in terms of sensory overload.  From the massive lighting truss that moved fluidly overhead, to the smoke machine that was pumping throughout the two-and-a-half hour show, to the snow—yes, snow—that was dropped on the crowd, to the laser and pyrotechnic displays, it was a tremendous amount to take in but where Trans-Siberian Orchestra succeeds and others fail is that the music is never lost in all the theatrics.  The group of musicians assembled—many reprising their roles from the band’s recordings—is nothing short of phenomenal with amazing talent, presence and ambience across the board.  The combination of both facets really makes for a memorable and breathtaking night of music for all ages and musical tastes.  Senior citizens and families spanning three generations were seated next to long-haired dudes in leather jackets…and everyone was smiling ear to ear together.


As has become the norm, Trans-Siberian Orchestra plays the majority of its 1996 debut, CHRISTMAS EVE AND OTHER STORIES, in order with a narrator and cast of characters acting out the central story of an angel being sent to Earth in search of the best example of what Christmas truly means.  Former Megadeth/Savatage guitarist, Al Pitrelli, is the leader of the west coast troupe and whether he was hammering out power chords on “An Angel Came Down” or sharing the spotlight with Angus Clark for a blistering display of axe wizardry on “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24,” the heavier side of the band’s sound was never lost amid the more traditional elements of “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark! The Herald Angel’s Sing.”  Spanning several genres, the R&B-flavored vocals of Scout Ford (“Good King Joy”) mixed flawlessly with the heavy metal thunder of Kelly Keeling (“First Snow”) and the gruff, bluesy delivery of Tommy Farese (“Ornament”).  The backing choir lent just the right southern gospel feel to Farese’s version of “This Christmas Day,” while Andrew Ross’ similarities to Meat Loaf in vocal style are perfect for the stirring “An Angel Came Down.”  The secret weapon, though, was Tony Gaynor’s warm, velvet-like delivery which added a poignant touch to the narrative that strung the ninety-minute first half together.


A short respite allowed Farese to introduce the entire band before the second half of the show kicked off “Christmas Nights In Blue,” the bouncy piano of Jane Mangini mingling with Ford’s excellent vocals on the song from 2004’s THE LOST CHRISTMAS EVE.  The material drawn from the band’s only non-Christmas release, 2000’s BEETHOVEN’S LAST NIGHT, is certainly not their strongest suit and a lively cover of “Proud Mary” seemed a bit out of place but one of the highlights of the second half was certainly “Queen of The Winter Night.”  Erin Henry appeared at the opposite end of the venue and left many jaws agape with her flawless operatic trill.  Violinist Anna Phoebe added to the visuals with gravity-defying movements and stunning work on her instrument.  The progressive-rock tinged “Wizards In Winter” featured multi-colored pyro displays and everyone felt the heat of the big finale of “Beethoven.”  An amusing keyboard “duel” featuring Mangini and Derek Weiland was manifested by Pitrelli that led into “Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness)” but the band pulled out all stops for the grand finale reprise of “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24.”  Cherry pickers elevated Clark and vocalist Kristin Gorman twenty feet in the air at the end of the venue as the guitars squealed, fireworks blasted off behind the stage, pyro scorched the crowd and snow fell from the rafters.  To say this was a heart-racing accompaniment to the building musical crescendo is an understatement as the crowd was almost dumbfounded at the whole of it all.  Pitrelli concluded the show by inviting everyone to an after-party/meet-and-greet on the main level of the venue and announcing that they would surely be back “in 365 days.”


A new Trans-Siberian Orchestra album entitled NIGHT CASTLE is rumoured to be released sometime in 2008 which many fans have waiting patiently for.  Whether or not it will follow the Christmas theme remains to be seen but, I, for one, will not miss Trans-Siberian Orchestra if they come to Vancouver again.  This is one holiday tradition that young and old can, and should, enjoy together.  The music is timeless and expertly played, the tickets are affordable, and worshipping at the altar of heavy metal beats the heck out of midnight mass any day of the week!

March of The Kings
An Angel Came Down
O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night
The Prince of Peace/Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
First Snow
A Mad Russian’s Christmas
Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24
Good King Joy
Old City Bar
Promises To Keep
This Christmas Day
An Angel Returned
~Band Introductions ~
Christmas Nights In Blue
Proud Mary
A Last Illusion
An Angel’s Share
Queen of The Winter Night
Christmas Canon
Wizards In Winter
O Fortuna (Carmina Burana)
Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness)
Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 (Reprise)

***Thanks to Jessica at Live Nation for the press pass.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra—Official Site