December 25, 2009: Christmas at My House
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December 30, 2009
We Attend a Concert by
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra

 

 

Tonight, our friends Tom Harris and John Evans have invited us to go with them to a concert by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the American Airlines Center. It was a very thoughtful invitation and we were happy to accept it. The only problem was that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra turned out to be something different than I had expected. Had I "googled" them first, I would still have gone to the concert but I would have been better prepared!

 

The American Airlines Center


The American Airlines Center was designed and built about five years ago as a replacement for Reunion Arena. Not that the Arena wasn't big enough, but it just wasn't "modern" enough (read: not enough luxury skyboxes). It is located just west of downtown, right alongside Stemmons Freeway and just south of the interchange between Stemmons (I-35E) and the Dallas North Tollway. Fred and I have ridden our bikes down there a great many times, since the Katy Trail (bike and pedestrian walkway that lies on top of the old Katy Railway right-of-way) ends there.


Before tonight, I'd not been in the building, but have heard a great deal about it. It is supposed to have retractable seating so it can convert easily from one sport to another or to a concert venue. There are no interior roof supports; they are all at the corners of the building.

The exterior of American Airlines Center is made of brick, limestone and granite and the arches on all sides of the building are supposed to signify "open arms to welcome Dallas' citizens." (That last bit of puffery is from the Center's Web site. The venue has four entrances, one on each side of the building, and the north and south ends of the building have outdoor balconies (these are only accessible from the "Platinum Level," which means pretty much what you think it might mean.

 

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra

 

History of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra

When Paul O'Neill first conceived Trans-Siberian Orchestra, his goal "was to create a progressive rock band that would push the boundaries further than any group before, following in the footsteps of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd, the Who...but take it way, way further." Since its inception, the group has sold more than 7 million albums, reintroducing the multi-dimensional art form of the rock opera. On the road, they have become one of the top touring artists of the past decade, mounting a $20 million production that has played to over 7 million people in almost 100 cities, and selling more than $280 million worth of tickets.

O’Neill, a New York City native, grew up "with a wide-ranging world of musical influences around me," particularly the previously mentioned rock 'n' roll titans. But O'Neill also soaked up sources such as Broadway musicals, Motown and singer-songwriters such as Jim Croce and Harry Chapin; authors such as Oscar Wilde and Robert Graves fueled his literary tastes. He began his career playing guitar for touring productions of Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair, then went to work in the late 70’s for Leber-Krebs Inc., the Manhattan management company whose clients included Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, AC/DC, Def Leppard, the Scorpions, the New York Dolls and scores of others.

O'Neill helmed Aerosmith's CLASSICS LIVE I and CLASSICS LIVE II albums, worked the band Savatage, collaborated with Jon Oliva, Bob Kinkel and Al Pitrelli, as well as with legendary studio engineer Dave Wittman, who all became key original collaborators in O'Neill's grand vision – Trans-Siberian Orchestra. "I wanted to take the very best of all the forms of music I grew up on and merge them into a new style," O'Neill says. "Basically I was building on the work of everybody I worshipped: the rock opera parts from bands like the Who; the marriage of classical and rock from bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Queen; the over-the-top light show from bands like Pink Floyd...I always wanted to do a full rock opera with a full progressive band and at least 18 lead singers." O'Neill took the idea to Atlantic Records who financed the creation of ROMANOV which was initially to be TSO’s first release. That album got temporarily shelved, so the first installment of the Christmas trilogy, CHRISTMAS EVE AND OTHER STORIES became TSO’s debut album. Fueled by the socially conscious single "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24," the album went double platinum. More platinum certifications followed with 1998’s THE CHRISTMAS ATTIC, and the final installment of the Christmas trilogy, THE LOST CHRISTMAS EVE in 2004. In the midst of completing the trilogy, TSO released their first non-holiday rock opera the gold certified BEETHOVEN'S LAST NIGHT.

But TSO really cemented its following in concert. The group hit the road in 1999, beginning an annual November-December extravaganza that O'Neill takes pride in being "as over the top as we can make it.” “We have, two stages -- with pyro, light and lasers -- on both sides of the arena, as well as in the crowd and the best sound we can find...There's no second-class seats at a Trans-Siberian Orchestra show. I want people to walk out of our shows speechless and...still not believing what they have seen was possible."

The new album NIGHT CASTLE released in October of 2009 debuted at #5 and was certified gold by year’s end. NIGHT CASTLE is a sweeping two-discs of genre-blending epics and an affecting story that takes you around the world, through time and to points beyond. O'Neill and company will eventually give NIGHT CASTLE its due in a live setting just as they have BEETHOVEN’S LAST NIGHT in Spring 2010 with a new hybrid form of concert they are calling “Rock Theatre”-- and that's just one of many multi-media avenues TSO will be exploring in the near future.

"I've always believed that music has the power to transport and transform," O'Neill explained. "The original concept of Trans-Siberian Orchestra was how to make music have the most emotional impact. We always try to write melodies that are so infectious they don't need lyrics and lyrics so poetic that they don’t need a melody, but when you combine the two together they create an alloy where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Once those songs are woven together into a tapestry they create a story which gives each song a third dimension. This is a group -- a constantly morphing group -- of extremely creative and talented individuals who are always trying to raise the bar of where a band can take its audience sonically, visually and emotionally. With that as our core ideal, the possibilities are endless."  

Band Members

The Orchestra is a huge affair, at least measured by the standards of much smaller groups like The Who. So their performances are not your typical main-performer-and-backup-band type of thing. They are more like the Electric Light Orchestra, but much more in the "rock" vein than the symphonic one. While I like some of the individual singles that these types of rock bands have put out, and while I thought the rock opera "Tommy" was extremely enjoyable, this kind of music is not typically my style, that tending to more mainstream balladeers, singers and small groups.

In any event, you might be interested in who the members of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra are:

 

The Music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra

In just a little while, when you have a look at the pictures and videos that I took at the concert, you will get an opportunity to hear the TSO if you haven't heard them before. But if you want something more professional than my little snippets, here are a couple of choices for you.

First, you can watch one of their YouTube videos. Since I mentioned it before, you can have a look at the video for their hit single "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" by clicking here.

If you would prefer just to listen to this same selection, please click here.

(And if you want to see an extremely imaginative use of this same music, click here.

 

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra Concert

Tom and John got us very good seats- to the right side of the stage, only six or eight rows up and far enough from the speakers that the music didn't get drowned out. I don't think I've been in better seats in the AA Center than these.

As for the concert, it was certainly an experience. While my taste in music runs to quieter and more melodic selections, I found TSO to be enjoyable. I didn't enjoy every selection they played; some of it gets quite discordant with all the electric guitar riffs and unusual keys. But I think I could say that about any artist that I've been to see- even Celine Dion and Marco Antonio Solis (both of whom I was prepared to like a lot). Much of the experience, as it is with almost every concert in a venue like the AA Center, is attributable to the light and pyrotechnic shows, and this concert was no exception. How they come up with all this stuff, I'll never know.

As for pictures and videos, I took quite a few of each- although the videos came out better than the pictures. So let's have a look. First up, the videos:

The Opening Sequence
This video will introduce you to the stage setup and the arena. It was tough to figure out when to start filming; I've been to some concerts where there is three or four minutes of lead-in before the artist actually takes the stage.
 
Laser and Light Shows
This video takes a look at some of the light and laser effects that were used throughout the concert.

Light Effects
Behind TSO were huge banks of neon and video screens, and they were used to good effect to supplement a good many musical numbers, including this one.
 
Canon in D
I thought this selection was very good. I have heard Pachelbel's "Canon in D" a number of times; it is one of my favorite pieces (ever since "Ordinary People," at least). But I have never heard it done both instrumentally and vocally at the same time. Here is a snippet of that selection.

A Familiar Piece
As soon as this piece began, I knew I had heard it before, but I also knew I had never listened to a CD by TSO before, either. It wasn't until most of the way through that I placed it. Listen to this snippet first, and if you can't place it either, then first pause this video and then click here.
 
A Second Stage
I'd wondered what the small stage out in the middle of the audience was going to be used for; this video shows you.

The Finale
Here is a short snipped from the end of the final selection.

Now for the pictures. Of course, taking pictures in such a huge space and with such intense lights is difficult for the amateur, but at least some of my pictures turned out well. Click on the thumbnail images below to have a look at these pictures:

We had a really good time at the concert, and we thank Tom and John very much. It was a wonderful end to the year.

You can use the links below to continue to the album page for different day.


December 25, 2009: Christmas at My House
Return to Index for 2009