Show Review: The Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the Scottrade Center, Saturday, December 12

Categories: Show Reviews

To my knowledge, the slew of vocalists which accompanied the Trans-Siberian Orchestra last evening never sang the word "Jesus." The concert did not feature a denouncement of Santa or the formation of a manger in laser lights on the Scottrade Center's roof. Yet the event felt an awful lot like the world's highest-budget contemporary Christian Christmas program, slathered with just enough uncommitted references of angels, stars and Bethlehem to offend none but keep the Catholics, Baptists and Lutherans happy.

My infatuation with Trans-Siberian Orchestra has been admittedly novel; the band's Ironic-Maiden licks and unsubtle orchestrations add a welcome level of triumph to the seasonal songbook. TSO's inherent shock value carried the first half of its set. Melodies from "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "O Holy Night" were seamlessly woven into an instru-metal medley that soundtracked the evening's most epic and epileptic light display. My view of the green laser mountains were only blocked by the dude six rows up throwing up a pair of unironic devil horns.

"Nutrocker," the unfortunately named take on Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite featured the best pairing of audio and visual stimulation. Brilliantly programmed LED lights animated a marching army of nutcrackers while the band primitively plowed through the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" like Cavemannheim Steamroller. TSO's crowd-pleasing gem "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" was sonically spectacular but tainted by vaguely political images of helicopters, guns, George W Bush and Barack Obama. The pyrotechnics that erupted on the tune's last few hits were achingly predictable. Flame throwers have never felt so safe.

Although the group recently released a new double album, Night Castle, the bulk of its set came from its landmark Christmas Eve and Other Stories. Narration from the James-Earl-Jones-ish Anthony Gaynor moved a convoluted plot forward: An old guy at bar tells young guy a story about an angel sent to Earth to find the true meaning of Christmas and finds a child who points out a stranded girl to some bartender and he gives her money to fly home for the holiday and then the guy telling the story winds up being an angel himself. Or, uh, something like that.

Like many seasonal confections, TSO was unsatisfying in large doses. After the initial sugar rush of its rousing instrumentals, the band crashed into a series of "it should be Christmas every day" power ballads. Each time somebody approached the vocal microphone, it was a virtual invitation to use the restroom. Steve Broderick Bart Shatto dressed like a homeless man and sang an endless solo with acoustic accompaniment, and James Lewis Tommy Farese lent his gruff tenor to the sappy "Ornament." Jeff Scott Soto spent the most time in the spotlight, his awkward melodic improvisations landing somewhere between Huey Lewis and Creed's Scott Stapp while fake snow flowed from the heavenly rafters.

While Soto's textbook rockstar moves wore on me, others in the audience ate it up like tree-shaped marshmallow Peeps. The truth is, Trans-Siberian Orchestra knows its demographic -- rockers, Christians and Christian rockers. The band made no concessions for Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, and it didn't broaden its spectrum from Christmastime to "Holiday Season." The rhythm guitarist resembled Jesus in a tuxedo. While announcing band members, James Lewis gave a shout out to the men and women of the armed forces. However, Lewis also made references to getting drinks after the show and Broderick slipped a "Freebird" joke into "Old City Bar." Not exactly edgy, but it was enough of a stretch from the the band's seasonal spirituality to not alienate the agnostics.

Anthony Gaynor wrapped up the Christmas Eve and Other Stories tale with a couplet along the lines of "You must admit the tale had charm / And if you didn't learn from it, at least it did no harm." At its worst, the band did no harm. At its best, Trans-Siberian Orchestra gave the audience something to brag about to their church buddies Sunday morning -- or at least a reason why they have 75 dollars less for the offering basket.


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37 comments
Windsor Resident
Windsor Resident

saw this in Detroit and almost fell asleep several time. The classical is stripped to the bone. a 10 year old with little practice could do what they are playing. Its repition of stripped down themes over and over and over again. Pathetic. I hated it.

Frankly I think its dieat classical - watered down so imbeciles can understand it and think they are being cool.

Robertcopeland
Robertcopeland

I just got back to my hotel in Reno after the TSO performance. I was confused about the meaning of the performance and I Google "is TSO Christian". I found the above description. It is an absolutly perfect rendition of my experience tonight. Absolutly the same!

Two More Things
Two More Things

Mr. Wasoba,

Indeed we are all entitled to our opinions, and your opinions are wrong. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is one of the most talent-packed and musically intelligent group of people ever combined. If you actually bought one of their records or did a little background information on the band before you wrote a hasty review full of ludicrous accusations, maybe people wouldn't leave so many "hateful statements."

And I am sure Paul O'Neill, who you may or may not know of, was truly stung by your primitive review considering he has a massive record deal and is regarded as one of the most innovative and talented composers of this generation.

And you would think that a prog rock expert as yourself would mention ELP after "The Nutrocker." And Neal Morse is far superior to Dream Theater.

And when Steve Vai sells out two months worth of arena shows or Eric Johnson actually writes some music someone cares about, let me know.

There. I think I sufficiently matched your sarcasm.

One More Thing
One More Thing

Oh, and for all you who are going to respond to my review with hateful statements (even though I'm entitled to my own opinion and never put you down in the process)...

If you want to see some real rock guitarists, go see Steve Morse, or Eric Johnson, or even Steve Vai. Those guys will blow your socks off. And if you want to see a real prog-metal band with true creativity, go see Symphony X or Dream Theater.

Elements of Spinal Tap
Elements of Spinal Tap

Just saw the show tonight for the first time. I've been to countless metal shows in my life and have been playing guitar for 35 years in rock/metal bands, and run a recording studio for my job... so it's safe to say I'm not out-of-the-loop in the music scene. Anyway, I totally agree with Gary above and the writer of this article. The closest thing I could compare to was a decent version of Spinal Tap. Some things were very cool, but 3 hours of queer rock poses and old guys banging their heads on stage was just silly. And song after song of the same grand metal intros and rhythmically virtually identical instrumentals. I wish they had integrated the little orchestra section in more, because when they did it was pretty cool. The vocal songs were pathetically boring and uncreative - especially the acoustic number, as mentioned. I literally fell asleep during that song, and it was still going when I woke up! All that said, I'm not unhappy I went. It was interesting to a certain degree, and certainly the biggest light show I've ever seen in a concert. Just won't be going back to see them again.

New Fan
New Fan

Just saw the show last night in Richmond and it was awesome. Wish I'd been following them since the earlier years, but I am a new fan. To Mr. Ticketwinner, I hope you either surprised yourself by enjoying the show or left early. Why would you want to be annoying to others who are enjoying the show? Too much of that in this world. Grow up! That's why I paid to have good seats... to be away from idiots like you!

ticketwinner
ticketwinner

I won tickets to this show. I am going this week. You people are so crazy thats why I want to go. WOW you take it all so seriously, relax...they're just a band. You may think you have the best taste in music, I personally do not. Either way it's ok. If I want to go to see this cheeseball of a Christmas show so I can laugh like I am at a comedy show thats ok to. Settle down, I am sorry that hair band music never regained it's popularity agian. You will be ok. Just listen to Daughtry.(I am sure you already do) You are all part of why I cant wait to see this cornball fest. I am sure you would hate lots of music I love, the difference is I don't care. I can laugh at whatever I want AND SO CAN YOU! I think the review was kind from what I heard and saw of this show. I look forward to seeing all of you that take this so seriously, thats what will make these FREE tickets worth the price to park.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Gary, you're an idiot. That is all.

George Haberberger
George Haberberger

Gary,

GASP!! Oh My God!1 You're piercing, insightful and oh-so-clever comparison of TSO to wrestling has lifted the scales from my eyes!!! You're absolutely right!!! How could I have been so foolish? I've been to their shows every year for ten years and I wasted all that time and money!!! Thank you for sharing your astute observations with all of us poor deluded hicks who just have no musical taste.

You shouldn't stop here. The rest of the world needs to be enlightened by you omniscience. Please, go to classical music fan sites and point out how Beethoven's simplistic symphonies are just silly little tunes.

Go to Clapton sites and point out his clumsy fretwork. Go to Beatles sites and tell them how overrated they are.

Stop being so humble and unassuming. The time has come to stop hiding your light under a bushel basket. Tell everyone what they should like.

Gary
Gary

I saw the show in Houston Sunday. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the whole thing seemed like a parody. It reminded me of Spinal Tap. I kept waiting for a druid to dance around a 1-foot tall monolith. The amazing thing was that everyone was really into it. I wanted to tap somone on the shoulder and say, "You realize that this is stupid, don't you?" But it would be like trying to convince pro wrestling fans that pro wrestling is stupid.

George Haberberger
George Haberberger

TSO Fan;

Yes, TSO did play the Fox in 2001 and 2002. But the first time we saw them was 2000 at the Pageant. Our seats at the Pageant were in the first row. In 2001 at the Fox we were in the second row. In 2002 we were in the 11th row. Since they out-grew the Fox and moved to the Savvis Center and the Scottrade Center our seats have gotten progressively worse.

I sincerely hope that St. Louis is a stop on TSO's spring tour.

TSO Fan
TSO Fan

Mr Haberberger - I believe they played at the Fox Theatre before expanding to the Scottrade Center.

Everyone - Just wait until the Spring when they go on tour for the first time supporting they're non-Christmas CDs!!

Wally Gregg
Wally Gregg

I believe Mr. Wasoba mistakenly listened to a TSO DVD while watching a Rams game and got confused.

Al's West band performed wonderfully in Ft Wayne in November, and the East band (did you know there were 2?) rocked Conseco in Indy last night.

Everyone has a right to their opinion, but when you can't do your job properly by knowing your facts, you have no credibility.

Thank you TSO for your "Magical" performances!

George Haberberger
George Haberberger

"The programs at the show that contained all of the names of band members cost money, so they weren't as easily referenced as some of the posters are implying."

Seriously? The RFT wouldn't comp the 15 bucks a program would have cost you? Things must be worse than I thought. Maybe the RFT should raise their ad rates for all the strip clubs.

My wife and I first saw TSO in 2000 at the Pageant. We've been back every year. I only have 9 programs because that first year they didn't sell any.

We love the music, the light show, the story, Tommy Farese, Al Pitrelli,Tony Gaynor and everything else. At times we have brought our kids, family, friends, and the priest that married us. The concert has become a Christmas tradition.

Kim
Kim

I don't know what show you were watching, but the show that I saw was amazing! Of course they're going to play Christan music, it's a Christmas show. Just because it's a Christmas show doesn't mean people of any religion can't go and enjoy the amazing music and light show.

purplecat
purplecat

To Ryan Wasoba:

I think the problem people have with your review was your snarky comments about Christmas music being played at a Christmas concert.

Christmas is the celebration of Jesus' birth and songs played at a concert advertised as a CHRISTMAS concert are going to be about the birth of Jesus.

Comments such as "The truth is, Trans-Siberian Orchestra knows its demographic -- rockers, Christians and Christian rockers. The band made no concessions for Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, and it didn't broaden its spectrum from Christmastime to "Holiday Season." leave people to wonder what exactly were you expecting? Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, nor "Holiday Season" have anything to due with the birth of Jesus.

If I am going to a concert that celebrates the birth of Mohammad, I am not going to be expecting songs about the birth of Jesus. Nor would I expect :political correctness, all inclusive" to take place so as not to "offend" anyone. If I am offend by songs of Mohammad, maybe I shouldn't go to a concert that is in celebration of his birth - and advertised as such.

If you think the show is cheesy and didn't like the production, that's cool..that's your opinion. But the snarky comments about Christians and their christmas music just makes you look dumb.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Exactly the kind of review I would expect from a piece of garbage like the RFT.

Mel
Mel

If anyone doesn't like TSO, don't go, shut up, and leave the rest of us to our enjoyment. One of the most entertaining shows I have ever seen (been to two) and my 18 year old daughter agrees. P.S. I'm 77.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Ryan Wasoba

I think all people who are in the know the slightest bit about music knows full well that TSO is primarily a Christmas Music act. Once again, if you attend a holiday concert that features Christmas music, the music WILL contain elements of Christianity. I can't understand why this is such a hard concept for people to grasp. I'm not that religious myself but I wasn't offended or put off by the music at all. I thoroughly enjoyed the show.

HUGE FARESE FAN
HUGE FARESE FAN

lol............ one thing you did get right... "your PIDDLY OPINION'

t
t

WHATEVER! btw ONCE AGAIN........... F A R E SE!! you also have the spelling wrongTOMMY FARESE and if you spent 10 minutes with the people in this oganization you review would be different.

Ryan Wasoba
Ryan Wasoba

I usually stay out of commenting back on this sort of thing, but just wanted to clarify some things in my review and its backlash:

-I apologize for getting some names wrong. "TSO Fan" has it right and I have sent in the corrections to our editor. Matching up the names was the most difficult part of the review since there are two incarnations of the band, in addition to tons of past members and different lineups live than on the recordings.

-The programs at the show that contained all of the names of band members cost money, so they weren't as easily referenced as some of the posters are implying.

-I never bashed them for being Christian, it was just the way they went about things that was off-putting. There was a certain dissonance to Fearse (who I accidentally called James) singing songs about the savior's birth and then inviting people to drink with him after the show. It was very....Catholic.

-I think some people misunderstand the concept of a show review, which is for somebody to watch a performance and voice their opinion of the subject matter. I can see how the misinformation of the names could be unforgivable to some, so again, I apologize. But to the consistent comment of "if you don't like the show, don't go," I have to say that I went to the show not knowing if I would like it or not. Having disliked the show, I tried to be lighthearted about it. It's not my intention to convince people not to like TSO or inhibit their success with my "piddly opinion."

-The word "primitive" to describe "Nutrocker" was not an insult, rather a comment on how effectively heavy it was. I always thought the drums on "Iron Man" sounded like a caveman hitting his drums with Wooly Mammoth bones, that sort of thing.

Where did everybody's Christmas spirit go?!?!

A proud Repeat Offender
A proud Repeat Offender

Come on, if you're gonna trash someone, at least get the band members correct! If you don't like something fine, don't GO!! Not a tough call. I think selling out stadiums for 2 months straight with two different touring groups is doing ok for yourself, so your piddly opinion doesn't mean squat.

And calling two of the most respected guitarists in the industry, Al Pitrelli and Angus Clark, primitive just shows your ignorance in music.

Annie Zaleski
Annie Zaleski

thanks for the heads up on corrections; the writer is sending them in.

Lydia
Lydia

You're an idiot. James Lewis and Steve Broderick were not in the show. Check out the program before you write a review. I second the "don't go to a Christmas show if you don't want to hear about Christmas" sentiments above.

t
t

I think the person who reviewd it needs to go back to school. HE GOT EVERY BAND MEMBER NAME WRONG!!! YES TONY GAYNOR YES SOTO.................. BRODERICK.....LEWIS EAST COAST BAND!!! SO MUCH FOR BEING A PROFESSIONAL!!! GEE I COULD HAVE THIS JOB BUT THEN AGAIN I'D GET MY FACTS SRAIGHT BEFORE I WENT TO PRINT!!! THEY MIGHT NOT HIRE ME!!

Anonymous
Anonymous

It's funny to see all of these people criticize TSO for having elements of Chistianity in their music when they are a band that features CHRISTMAS MUSIC. Hmm....they said "Lord" in Christmas music....who would have thunk it!!!!! If you people are so anti-christ, you REALLY need to do think before going to holiday concerts. It's not a hard concept...really. Anyway, I thought the show was outstanding. The Christmas songs were done in a classy way....nowhere near "cheesy" as some others put it.

TSO Fan
TSO Fan

Dude! Did you even do your research? That was NOT james Lewis doing the intros. It was Tommy Farese. And it was not Steve Broderick doing "old City Bar" it was Bart Shatto. You are getting East TSO mixed up with West TSO. Learn your facts before printing up a review.

The show was awesome. I took my 8 year old and he was enthralled the entire time which isn't an easy thing for him to do.

Tulsa
Tulsa

And to Diva, maybe Clang went b/c he like the songs chosen for radio airplay. It is possible to go to a movie or concert based on the content advertised and find out you didn't like it.

And to the writer of the review, while they may not have said jesus, they certaintly said the lord, alot.

Tulsa
Tulsa

I saw TSO for the first time on 12/11 in Tulsa. I agree with this review 100%. I could have done without the lyrical songs. There was only one I liked. The story narrator was boring. The first half was boring. A very religous coworker also agreed the first half was boring and the show he went to last year was way better than this year's production. Hopefully their upcoming spring shows will be better.

Diva
Diva

The concert was amazing! TSO is extremely talented! If you do not like them or the show, stay home!

cmb
cmb

ya know, even their most famous song "Christmas Eve Sarajevo" is a rendition of a non-secular song, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." I can appreciate the agnostic/atheist viewpoint, but seriously....if you buy a ticket to go see a Christmas show that is famous for reinterpreting religious tunes, I don't really feel that bad that you didn't like it...or listen to their album for like $9 on itunes before landing $80 on a show...?

Anonymous
Anonymous

Hey Clang

If you hate TSO so much, why bother going? If you don't like a band, don't go to their show..it's not rocket science.

Clang
Clang

Not for me�Not for you?

The TSO show was without a doubt the most ridiculous, contrived and BS waste of time and money I could imagine and I love 80's rock. If you are not a Christian and are expecting secular Xmas tunes and not a full on religious revival then this show is NOT FOR YOU! In addition, regardless of your belief system, if you have expectations that include something beyond a cheesy out of date - wanna be hair band knockoff, Christmas head-banging, silly singing, ignorant narrative bunch of crap � then this show is NOT FOR YOU! Oh, the light show and moving stage were interesting for about a song and a half. I actually believed that the show would get better and that there would be some redeeming quality...not! An hour was way too long to stay and I will never get that time back. My advice, If you are a sober minded person, who is slightly to non religious and have a low tolerance for BS, please learn from my mistake and don�t waste your money or time next year, because it�s NOT FOR YOU!

sk
sk

Totally spot-on review, on all points. I can't think of any word better than "convoluted" to describe the "plotline" of the Christmas portion, save for maybe "confounding" and "laughable".

And @mo/myley: Yes, I noticed the light/video rigging section that stopped working halfway through - I honestly thought they might even acknowledge it during the introductions, since it was so obvious it was almost distracting.

But yeah, exactly how I would have written this, Ryan. 100%

mo
mo

thought the show was great...the middle got a little slow for me....light show was great, queen of the winter night was great, always enjoy that song...as well as their version of carol of the bells. did anyone else notice the two lights that hung throughout the second half of the show...broken????

music
music

Hahaha.  You're an idiot.  Not only is the other guy so right, but you call out Steve Vai and Eric Johnson as creating music no one cares about... well you better not say that in the guitar-player circles.  Not to mention, how many albums in Neil Morse selling these days?  Hmmm... it seems to me that Vai, Johsnon and Petrucci were on the national sell-out G3 tours.  Why didn't they ask Neil Morse?

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