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Story by Andy Argyrakis
Right up there with AC/DC or Pink Floyd but with the theatrical bent of The Who's rock operas or an Andrew Lloyd Webber play (all of whom the troupe's been frequently compared to), Trans-Siberian Orchestra's concerts are downright spectacles. Yet even with all the pyro, swirling light shows, hydraulic lifts and accompanying chorography between the band, background singers, narrators and soloists, music never takes a back seat to the sights.
If anything, the group has grown more ambitious over its decade and a half career, intermixing tunes from its latest disc Night Castle (Atlantic) with revamped Christmas classics throughout its evening stop in Chicago. After opening with the classically-inspired non-holiday cuts "Night Enchanted" and "Beethoven," the group kicked a mixture of symphonic and progressive rock into Christmas that could very be Emerson, Lake & Palmer from back in the day, crossed with the metal-leaning nuances of some members previous time in Savatage.
Though it might sound like a gimmick on paper, skeptics surely became believers after the near three hour marathon, which ranged from traditional tidings like "O Holy Night" to the season on guitar-driven steroids across "A Mad Russian's Christmas" and "Christmas Canon Rock." Additional variety came courtesy of the newer prog piece "Toccata- Carpimus Noctem," the piano pounding "Nutrocker" and even a stab at The Beatles "Help," which earned a ballad reworking.
Yet it was the group's show stopping finale "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" that truly sent the crowd into sensory overload, finding two catwalks lifting via hydraulics above the audience's heads as fireworks unfurled on the actual stage. And as long as Trans-Siberian Orchestra keeps building its musical repertoire in such unconventional directions, backed by such an awe-inspiring scene, there's no telling just how far the creative concept could grow.
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