After sitting out a season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has fully returned to its annual holiday tradition of epic Christmas-themed arena rock spectacles.
This year, TSO is performing “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” which is the 2001 concert DVD that combined the most popular songs from its 1996 debut, “Christmas Eve and Other Stories,” and the 1998 follow-up, “The Christmas Attic.” With that concert initially being aired on PBS stations, it has become one of TSO’s most popular releases. The show comes to Toyota Arena in Ontario for two performances this holiday season at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3 and includes additional TSO hits.
While “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” will take up most of the first half of the show, the second part draws on selections from across the TSO catalog. Because many of the most popular songs will be performed as part of “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” TSO’s Western U.S. musical director and guitarist Al Pitrelli and drummer for the Eastern company of TSO, Jeff Plate, said they ended up with room for songs this year that TSO hasn’t often performed on past tours.
During an interview last month, the duo said they weren’t able to speak on how this year’s visual effects and stage set will be bigger or different this year as they hadn’t yet joined the band for production rehearsals. TSO is well-known for its over-the-top scenes, lighting and elaborate pyrotechnics and both Pitrelli and Plate said they were looking forward to seeing the full stage production for the first time.
“You look up, and I always feel like a 15-year-old walking into that arena for the first time,” Pitrelli said when the finished productions come together. “It really turns you back into a teenager. But this time, I’m not getting chased out by security or the police, so it’s lot more fun standing there looking up and going ‘This is awesome.’”
The 2021 edition of TSO’s annual holiday tour was an outing unlike any other for everyone involved in bringing the concerts to audiences across the United States. Coming off of an absence in 2020, there was a special excitement in getting back into these performances.
“Missing 2020 certainly made us realize how fortunate we are to do what we do,” Plate said.
But it was also the most challenging outing in TSO’s history, thanks to the lingering issues with the virus.
“It was riddled with anxiety, to say the least, because every morning you’d wake up and it’s like ‘OK, is somebody sick? Did somebody test positive? What are we going to do? Is the crew there? Are the folks in the audience OK?,’” Pitrelli added. “So it was definitely the most stressful tour we’ve ever been on.”
TSO took stringent precautions for COVID and had contingencies in place in case any of the performers came down with the virus. As Pitrelli noted, the job is to deliver the memorable concert spectacle fans have come to expect and make sure any issues aren’t apparent to audiences.
“The audience just wants their show,” Pitrelli said. “Whatever hoops we’ve got to jump through to make that happen, that’s what we’re going to do. So yeah, we had a couple of people in the bullpen. On a moment’s notice, they could fly out to a show or we would cover each other’s parts on stage. If one of the singers was sick, one of the other singers that was there would cover the song.
“Again, the show must go on,” he said.
Since forming in 1996, TSO’s shows have become easily the biggest and most elaborate of the holiday tours. It was all the vision of the group’s founder, Paul O’Neill, who died in 2017. His idea for TSO was to combine a rock band with an orchestra and record and play concept albums and rock operas with cohesive story lines. Instead of building an image around a singer, guitarist or conductor, the ensemble would use multiple singers and a range of instrumentalists, who would remain largely anonymous to listeners.
Plenty of industry professionals questioned whether TSO could be financially viable. Taking such a large musical group on the road would be expensive. To accommodate the visual production, TSO had to play arenas from the start, something no other music act had done. Nevertheless, Atlantic Records got on board with O’Neill’s vision and signed TSO.
The label has been rewarded, as TSO’s themed Christmas albums all became hits and continue to land in the Top 10 of holiday albums sales each season. “Christmas Eve and Other Stories,” which spawned the hit single “Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24,” has sold over 3 million copies and set the stage for the other two holiday rock operas that make up TSO’s Christmas trilogy — “The Christmas Attic” and “The Lost Christmas Eve” — to top 2 million copies sold.
In addition, the group has released a Christmas EP, 2012’s “Dreams of Fireflies (On A Christmas Night),” and three full-length non-holiday rock operas: “Beethoven’s Last Night” (2000), “Night Castle” (2009) and “Letters from the Labyrinth” (2015). In all, TSO’s CDs and DVDs have sold more than 12 million copies and generated 180 million streams just in 2021 alone.
According to its producers, since the first holiday tour in 1999, TSO has played to about 18 million fans and the shows have grossed about $725 million.
“Paul (O’Neill) told us many, many, many times this thing is going to outlive us all and it’s going to last from generation to generation,” Plate said. “Thinking for a moment that it would be without him was not in any of our thoughts. When it happened, it’s like ‘Well guys, we know what to do. We know what the job is.’ We know Paul would ask certain things of us throughout the years and you learn what the guy expects out of you and the show and everybody involved in the show. We are as protective of this as anybody. I cherish every time we go out there, every note we play. We’re doing it for, not just for the audience, but for Paul and his family, and it means a lot to us.”
Trans-Siberian Orchestra: “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve”
When: 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3
Where: Toyota Arena, 4000 Ontario Center, Ontario
Tickets: Starting at $69.50 at Ticketmaster.com
We are now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TechiUpdate) and stay updated with the latest Technology headlines.
For all the latest Music News Click Here