by MIKE CHAIKEN
The great thing about a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert is that you don’t necessarily need to know every song of theirs prior to your arrival at the arena.
The stage and special effects, and the power of their singular combination of metallic prog rock holiday tunes will keep you enraptured throughout the whole night.
TSO (which performed at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Nov. 26) is at the end of the day, a show. Its orchestral rock and roll power play has a rock musical feel to it (especially when they revisited their “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve”). Think “Jesus Christ Superstar” or “Evita.” The light shows and pyrotechnics have as much in common with classic heavy metal and arena rock. Think Motley Crue or early era Styx. The projections and videos (along with the stylistic nods to classical music) gave the show a definite progressive rock feel to it, a la Yes or Pink Floyd.
Essentially, TSO is a full-blown sensory experience.
The musicianship is key to pulling off a Trans-Siberian Orchestra show. The members of TSO clearly are all superb players who can pull off the complexity of the music in their sleep—albeit a very energetic and hyper sleep. And they all know the trappings of rock and roll showmanship… from the guitar hero poses to the way the backup singers/ dancers strutted their way onto the stage.
But there are no “stars” on stage. Everyone, from string players to the vocalists– all bow down to the greater good of the TSO experience. They work together as one rather than in service to one.
Some of my favorite musical moments were “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24),” TSO’s heavy metal approach to “The Nutcracker,” “A Mad Russian’s Christmas.” and “Siberian Sleigh Ride.”
For this tour, TSO has put so much special effects power on stage, it’s like one big giant amusement ride. There are plenty of bands who use pyro—such as Slipknot or Slayer. But often the pyro is used in a spot here or a spot there. At this show, pyro had a permanent place at the table throughout the night. Thermostats in the arena probably had a night to rest with all the heat generated by the explosions and flame throwers on stage.
The lighting of the show also went above and beyond anything you’ll see at most rock shows. There were lasers, moving lighting trusses, trusses that lowered from the ceiling with video screens and spinning spots that also served as catwalks for band members to play above the floor crowd.
Then the gigantic video screens behind the band offered up three dimension effects that often transformed the stage into an entirely different world.
From the back of the auditorium, the set for “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” looked like an old theater. But up close, it was all just a projection on a flat screen.
The TSO show is like a special effects wizard’s Christmas list. If the technology exists, TSO was using it.
Clearly, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has hit a chord with audiences. The matinee show I attended was sold out. The evening one, I was told by Mohegan Sun officials, was as well.
And given the Wow Factor I experienced, there unlikely was any member of the audience at Mohegan Sun Arena who went home disappointed.
I give Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Nov. 26 four out of four stars.