December 21, 2018 Trans-Siberian Orchestra Bring Christmas Spirit to Long Island, NY 12-20-18
The holiday season comes with a long list of traditions, some that are age old, others that are still taking shape. That in mind, back in the late 1990s, talented Rock Producer Paul O’Neil decided he wanted to try his hand at forging a new tradition with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas themed music/concerts. A wonderful idea, little did he know, it would still be going strong 20 years later. In fact, it has become an epic Christmastime concert series that weaves across the United States of America, sometimes performing two shows a day, and grown so extensively that there are two teams making the magic real – Trans-Siberian Orchestra East and Trans-Siberian Orchestra West.
Which leads us to the special 2018 Winter anniversary tour for Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) who are celebrating their 20th consecutive year on the road together. Coming a year after the tragic passing of aforementioned Founder Paul O’Neil, the newest edition of TSO Christmas Rock extravaganza honors his memorable The Ghosts of Christmas Eve – a timeless story of a runaway who finds her way into a mysterious abandoned theater. Kicking off on November 14th, with 65 cities scheduled for 100-plus performances, ’twas four days before Christmas Eve that Trans-Siberian Orchestra would arrive at NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, on Thursday, December 20, 2018.
Ironically enough, the theme of The Ghost of Christmas Eve had some correlation with the hosting Long Island, New York venue on this evening – it was actually almost abandoned itself in 2015 before being renovated and reopened in 2017. A place Trans-Siberian Orchestra have known quite well through the years, it would be their first visit back since the renovations, but these hallow walls still hold some ghosts of their own past…
Set to kick off the performance around 7:30 PM, the sold out audience anxiously awaited and it was a delightful mix of younger along with elder spectators, some as little as three years of age, curiously peaking at the massive stage setup with adorable over-sized muffs protecting their ears. Then, without warning, the lights went down and the show was set to begin. Filled with mystique, there was no telling what would happen as smoke rose from the platform and deep blue as well as red lights saturated the mood. Of course there was a massive high definition screen cascading across the back of the main stage which changed with each song, looking three-dimensional, and often so vivid you almost felt like you could reach out and touch it.
Matching these aspects, along with breathtaking pyrotechnics, lasers, and hydraulic lifts, most importantly, were the performers themselves. Here, familiar faces such as Whitesnake’s Guitarist Joel Hoekstra, Trans-Siberian Orchestra mainstay, Guitarist Chris Caffery, Drummer Jeff Plate, and distinctive Narrator Bryan Hicks made their presence known. Hoekstra, the ever-animated performer led the energy of the group, darting all over the stage, pointing out at audience members, and raising his guitar high in the air. He, along with Caffery, the precision of Keyboardist/Musical Director Derek Wieland, keys of the talented Mee Eun Kim, bass of Tony Dickinson, and passion of Violinist Roddy Chong, made up the core of TSO. Not to be overlooked, there was also a sea of talented vocalists, including Zachary “Zak” Stevens, Adrenaline Mob’s Russell Allen, Robin Borneman, Dustin Brayley, newcomer Caleb Johnson, Erika Jerry, Lisa Lavie, Georgia Napolitano, Natalya Rose Piette, and Kayla Reeves. Additionally joining them in the string section was a mix of local talented musicians bringing everything together.
Why mention every single member by name? Well, because it is important to understand that the energy TSO delivers could not be complete without everyone involved. This is a well-oiled machine, right down to the unsung heroes on the road crew who set this whole shebang up and break it down each day, only to truck onto another city in less than 24 hours. Which also makes it important to pay attention to the endurance and enthusiasm the band puts into each and every performance. Certainly giving it their all, they run around while playing at high levels with impeccable musicianship. Having a blast at the same time, they were everywhere – front to back, left to right, as well as rising so high they could touch the rafters on the various lifts.
Which leads to the actual music itself, something that was planned perfectly – from “Winter Palace” to the hair-raising “O Come All Ye Faithful / O Holy Night” and “A Mad Russian’s Christmas.” Yet, these matched with complete The Ghost of Christmas Eve production were only part of the delight. There were also a list of other Christmas-themed songs including “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing / The Three Kings & I,” as well as some non-Christmas pieces such as the blistering “Requiem (The Fifth).”
A well over two hours in-length event, TSO not only gave the audience a lot of material to chomp on, but a lot of bang for their buck. Speaking of which, as in previous years, a portion of every ticket sold benefits select local charities, so that should almost make you feel good inside. That is what Trans-Siberian Orchestra is all about, making people feel good, but while entertaining them in the process.
Never growing long in the tooth after all these years, TSO has managed to unify traditional compositions and storytelling with modern technique as well as visuals that will take your breath away. Which leads us right back to the moral of The Ghost of Christmas Eve’s story – that it is never too late to go home and find happiness once again. A lesson we can all learn from, Trans-Siberian Orchestra is the perfect partnership of sight and sound that will most likely engage the holiday spirit in fans for many more years to come.