Known for their incredible compositions and astounding stage production, Trans-Siberian Orchestra treated the good people of Utah to an extravaganza that will not soon be forgotten by any who attended. Amidst the outstanding light show and a mini snowstorm was a story that reminded us about the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas Reborn: An Eve With Trans-Siberian Orchestra
By John Foxworthy
Photos by Thomas Garner
Being the music lover that I am, I can honestly say I?ve
attended literally thousands of concerts in my lifetime. But no production I?ve
ever seen could possibly prepare me for what I was about to witness when
Trans-Siberian Orchestra came to the E Center in West Valley City, UT.
We arrived early to pick up our tickets and the scene was
amazing. Thousands of people from every walk of life filled the landings to the
arena?s concourses as they filed in to find their seats. Ours were on the floor
about fifty feet from the stage.
A thunderous round of applause from the audience greeted the
band as they took the stage, each man adorned in a tuxedo and black evening
gowns with large rhinestone clasps for the women. They broke into ?Wizards In Winter,? a spirited
instrumental that merged the sounds of heavy rock with stringed orchestration,
courtesy of the Salt Lake City Strings.
Red and green lasers pierced the air and a discrete layer of
fog crept along the stage floor. The song ended in a blast of blinding white
light that masked the entire stage. And then it was dark.
?In an old city bar/That is never too far/From the places
that gather/The dreams that have been??
Deep purple spotlights shown down from above to reveal
Anthony Gaynor as he narrated a story to some light piano work by Jane Mangini.
He went on to tell the tale of ?Christmas Eve,? a yarn about an angel who flies
over the Earth on a mission from God to discover some worth in mankind?s
efforts since the birth of Christ.
Then Guy LeMonnier, a hulking tree of a man, walked onto the
stage and sang ?An Angel Came Down.? What a set of pipes on this guy! In his
deep, booming voice he took up where Anthony left off ? and a lump formed in my
Of course the light show was absolutely spellbinding. After
all, TSO has been developing it for years. In fact, one of the band?s main
concerns is making sure everyone gets a great view of the stage; from the floor
seats all the way to the nosebleed sections at the sides of the stage ? no one
misses the show!
But even as awesome as the strobes flashing in sync with the
music, the sea of stars that served as a backdrop for the stage or the
multicolored spot beams that scanned the audience were, none of it prepared us
for the opening of ?First Snow,? when real snow began to seemingly fall from
the heavens upon the audience on the floor. What a treat! To be sitting in an
arena filled with people and hi-tech lighting and sound equipment and have an
ice-cold snowflake melt on my skin was truly an indescribable experience.
As the story of ?Christmas Eve? progressed, TSO brought out
many of their talents to perform different songs. I can honestly say I bore
witness to some of the most outstanding performances I?ve ever seen ? or likely
will ever see. Most notably might have been Jill Gioia?s interpretation of
?Prince Of Peace.? Later in the evening, when Tommy Farese introduced the
players, she was described as ??having the biggest voice on such a small
person.? And that?s no exaggeration, either. Though small in stature, Jill
belted out some of the most powerful notes I?d ever heard and she drove home
the idea that Trans-Siberian Orchestra only puts the best in their show ? I?d
say they?ve got it nailed!
So far, the production was spectacular. This being my first
time at a TSO show, I found myself so enthralled with everything unfolding in
front of me that I often forgot to take notes for this article. The people
behind us knew TSO?s material quite well. Many times I could hear them singing
all the lyrics to the songs. In fact, there was a lot of audience participation
throughout the E Center. Everyone was having a great time.
Tommy Farese took the mic to perform what was apparently a
crowd favorite, ?Ornament.? For me, this was where the story really came
together. A young runaway lost in the night and the prayers of her father to
bring her home safely overheard by an angel as he flew overhead. At the end of
the song Tommy became choked up as he struggled to get the last line out
through a very real sob. I don?t know if this was part of the act or if he was
truly caught up in the emotion of the song, but it added just the right amount
of drama and I was feeling that lump again.
Mr. Gaynor narrated more of the story as a derelict entered
the stage garbed in a ratty overcoat and carrying two paper sacks. It was
rumored that this guy was wandering the concourse before the show accepting
money from audience members as they made their way into the arena. On stage, he
approached the microphone, reached into his pocket and pulled out a small
whiskey bottle. He took a drink and sang ?Old City Bar,? as straggly strands of
his long hair constantly fell in front of his face. Later we would find out
that this was none other than Bart Shatto, part of TSO?s chorus.
His performance was tremendous. Shatto played an excellent
bum and in between sips from his bottle, which he offered to guitarist Al
Pitrelli (who declined), he wrapped up the plight of the young runaway with a
gruff old bartender having a moment of Christmas spirit by clearing out his
cash register so that she might have the money for a flight back home to be
reunited with her father.
John Lee Middleton
Thus ended the tale of ?Christmas Eve.? The angel found his
one redeeming moment to bring back to the almighty and the story ended. When
Tommy Farese returned to the stage to introduce the TSO players he had a
message for the audience. To pick up the phone and call someone you care about,
if only just to tell him or her you care. He also told us that anyone who gave
money to the bum on the concourse wasn?t getting it back, but don?t worry ? it
goes to charity. Now I was crashing back into reality and wishing it would
never be over, but it was really just beginning. Now it was time for a rock
Al Pitrelli took the mic now. He told us a story about an
experience in a local hotel, where a young, naļ¶„ bartender have a scantily
stocked bar. He told us how she breathed heavily with disinterest as he told
her the entire road crew would be entering in a few moments and that she should
really get more drink. Then he told us of how the look on her face became one
of absolute horror as she looked past Al and his wife to see a crowd of 76
people walk through the door and, in his words, she must?ve been thinking
something like this?
And the chorus broke into the operatic ?Carmina Burana,? a
very dramatic and somewhat scary piece that you?d recognize if you heard it,
but is hard to describe with mere words. The best I can do is to say that it
got the bartender?s feelings of frenzied dread across to the audience, who
responded with a huge round of laughter.
Afterwards, Pitrelli asked us if we wanted to see something
really cool and they broke into a few tunes from their current album, The
Lost Christmas Eve. This was accompanied by an intense pyro show. Balls of
fire leapt from several parts of the stage. I could actually feel the heat from
Not being familiar with much of Trans-Siberian Orchestra?s material,
I couldn?t really tell you which songs they played. We were treated to a
keyboard dual between Jane Mangini and Carmine Giglio. We were awed by an
operatic vocal performance courtesy of Kristin Gorman. We were even entertained
by guitarist Angus Clark and violinist Anna Phoebe when they left the stage and
walked through the audience to mount a small platform, which rose above the
crowd some 20 feet as they continued to play.
Geysers of red, green and yellow fire spouted from the stage
and showers of sparks cascaded from the rafters at the back of the stage. It
looked like the finale of a very well done fireworks show ? but with lots of
lights. Then, the entire cast lined up along the front of the stage and bowed
in unison, but not before announcing that they?d be signing autographs outside.
The house lights came up and everyone began to leave.
So there it was and I could write volumes of raves about the
show. Again, I?ve been to literally thousands of concerts and productions in my life,
but none of them could hold a candelabra to Trans-Siberian Orchestra. In my
opinion, it was the single greatest musical experience of my life and I intend
to find out how, in the words of Al Pitrelli, ?Next year?s show will be even
West Valley City, UT