JAMES GRANT: Christmas comes early with Trans-Siberian Orchestra performance in Fort Wayne

Trans-Siberian Orchestra performed Wednesday, November 29 at the Memorial Coliseum. (Photo by James Grant for The News-Sentinel)
Trans-Siberian Orchestra performed Wednesday, November 29 at the Memorial Coliseum. (Photo by James Grant for The News-Sentinel)
Trans-Siberian Orchestra performed Wednesday, November 29 at the Memorial Coliseum. (Photo by James Grant for The News-Sentinel)
Trans-Siberian Orchestra performed Wednesday, November 29 at the Memorial Coliseum. (Photo by James Grant for The News-Sentinel)

Christmas came early on Wednesday night as Trans-Siberian Orchestra played a nearly sold-out show to an enthusiastic and satisfied audience at Memorial Coliseum.

The two-hour performance was slick, ran like a well-oiled machine and was filled with great musicianship, strong vocals and enough pyrotechnics, flash and dramatic lighting to rival any current big-budget action film.

The show featured all of the most well-known and best-loved music by Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a progressive rock band that was put together by the late Paul O’Neill in the 1990s as a recording and touring group.

Known for their theatrical stage shows and recordings, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has been touring and selling millions of recordings for over twenty years and in that time has built a huge fan base that is devoted to their music.

That devotion was apparent last night from the opening notes of the first song “Time & Distance (The Dash)” as the audience, which was clearly ready to participate throughout the night, waved hands in time to the music, sang, cheered and mouthed the words to nearly every song.

The first half of the concert featured the songs and story from “Ghosts of Christmas Eve”, a 1999 TV-movie written by Paul O’Neill that showcased music from Trans-Siberian Orchestra, while the second half featured a selection of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s greatest hits.

It seemed that many in the crowd were not new to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra show experience and at times I felt as if I had crashed a party where everyone knew one another but me.

Not being too well versed in all things Trans-Siberian Orchestra, I was impressed at how well the group’s music came across in a live setting.

Of course I am familiar with the few Trans-Siberian Orchestra songs that are in heavy rotation on radio every Christmas season but while I have enjoyed them I must say experiencing Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s music live is much more satisfying for me than hearing their recordings.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra live is like seeing an explosion of Charles Dickens mixed with Pink Floyd with dozens of well-known rock figures thrown in for good measure like Styx, Meatloaf, Def Leppard, Kiss, Bon Jovi and Eddie Money.

The stage, draped by three large video screens in the rear and several smaller video screens below and on the sides, was a mix of the modern and the distant past as well.

Scenes of modern metropolitan cities alternated on the video screens with Christmas images of snow-filled landscapes and cozy fireplaces as well as some cosmic space imagery.

The production of this show is clearly modeled after the classic stadium rock show with a nice splash of Broadway thrown in for good measure.

Musicians and singers came and went onstage throughout the evening and at times walked in catwalks over the audience as well as in the audience while lifts and risers propelled and dropped them to great dramatic effect.

At one time during the song “What Child Is This” nine singers, 14 musicians plus the narrator joyfully swayed and rocked with passion on the crowded stage while lights frantically pulsed and lasers formed pools of light that illuminated the audience.

One of the highlights of the evening for me was the performance of the song “Sarajevo 12/24” in which I reveled in being bathed in sea of moving hands and purple light as well as feeling the heat from the pyrotechnics which could be felt very clearly from my seat in the 11th row on the floor.

Also of special note was singer Lisa Lavie’s wonderful performance of the song “Music Box Blues” which stood out as another fine moment from the evening.

I have to say that overall I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the entire production.

I had heard that Trans-Siberian Orchestra was really loud but I found that the show had really nice sound and wasn’t overly loud or obnoxious.

Of course there were some cheesy moments throughout the night but that was kept to a minimum and the bigness of the show’s production and passion of the performers was more than enough to keep my attention and provide a good night of entertainment.

And really a good night of entertainment is all I ask from any show.

Throw in some Christmas music and good showmanship, what more could you ask for?

James Grant is also author of a music blog: recordscdsandmusic.blog

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