Event Review: Christmas Reborn: An Eve With Trans-Siberian Orchestra
West Valley City, UT, November 25,2005
Artist: Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Title: Christmas Reborn: An Eve With Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Venue: E Center, West Valley City, UT
Date: November 25, 2005
Photos: 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.
Photo left – Al Pitrelli.
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 throat.
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!
Photo right - Angus Clark
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.
Photo left - 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 concert!
Al Pitrelli took the mic now. He told us a story about an experience in a local hotel, where a young, naïve 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 my seat.
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 bigger!”
For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.