in Indianapolis, IN, USA, December 17, 2007

TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA (Live in Indianapolis, IN, USA, December 17, 2007)
Photo: Dan Skiba

Rapidly becoming as much of a holiday tradition as mistletoe and eggnog, Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) made its annual stop at the luxurious confines of Indianapolis, Indiana’s Conseco Fieldhouse on a seasonally frigid Monday evening. In order to canvass all of the USA during the ever-expanding holiday season, TSO actually has 2 manifestations of itself: TSO West and TSO East, and TSO West was the flavor of choice for Indianapolis in 2007, featuring Al Pitrelli and Angus Clark on guitars, Johnny Lee Middleton on bass, John O. Reilly on drums, and a host of others. For any Grinches or those few out there still who aren’t familiar with TSO, they’re a band comprised predominantly of musicians with Metal backgrounds (often with ties into the band Savatage) who entwine Metal, Classical, and Symphonic elements into a unique holiday-spirited sound. Via combining original compositions and moving story lines with Traditional Holiday Classics, TSO has overwhelmingly succeeded in developing “Christmas With Attitude” … yet are collectively mindful to keep the sanctity of the holiday messages intact and “sacred,” if you will. The true focal point of the band year in and year out, however, is their stage show, and brainchild Paul O’Neill and cohorts certainly have never bought into the trendy “less is more” concept! Nope, not a chance … a TSO stage show simultaneously warms the soul, pummels the eardrums, and causes the rods and cones to fire in unison at full force for 150 continuous, wonderful minutes.

Well, for those who have had the benefit of witnessing last year’s performance, believe it or not, the 2007 stage show was indeed “bigger and better” and more over the top than anything ever seen in the past, and the Indianapolis faithful have certainly taken notice as TSO played on this night before their largest audience ever in Hoosier-land; upwards of 10,000 boisterous fans ranging from 8 to 84 years old. The stage set-up rivaled The Starship Enterprise, and included 30-foot walls of morphing lights on both sides, multi-colored laser and rotational eye-ball lights and flame-throwers (firing off enough heat to roast weenies and marshmallows when sitting anywhere on the floor in the first 25 rows), fireworks (both conventional and a grand finale waterfall variety), high-powered spot and strobe lights, a starry night backdrop, and multiple light columns in the back of the stage designed in “totem pole” style. Oh yes, not to forget the hydraulic raised platform stage in back of the sound boards too! Nothing short of incredible … in fact, there is no stage show that comes close to what TSO offers, and somehow each year they manage to continue to upwardly progress.

As is the custom, the 1st half of the show encompassed performance of Christmas Eve & Other Stories in its entirety. Never one to replicate the past, however, TSO inserted periodic bits of mischievous humor throughout the set and consciously opted to gravitate more towards the “heavier” aspects of their sound vs. the Orchestral or Traditional Christmas characteristics of their music, though never totally overstepping those boundaries. When complete, the 1st segment transition included performer introductions followed by an energetic rendition of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic, “Proud Mary,” much to the audience’s satisfaction. The 2nd half, as is also customary, was comprised of selections from TSO’s other CDs, including the much-awaited Night Castle release (that Al Pitrelli guaranteed would be released sometime in 2008 in a pre-show interview with Metal Express Radio!). The sound was outstanding and all systems were instructed to push on full steam ahead with respect to the lights and pyrotechnics show. TSO West frontman Pitrelli seemed to interact a bit less with the audience than in the past, but playful interaction amongst the other band members and with the audience added to the overall charm of the evening. Indeed one of the highlights of the 2nd segment was the ad lib keyboard duel between Jane Mangini and Derek Weiland, culminating in a rousing performance of the crowd favorite “Wish Liszt” from The Lost Christmas Eve album.

All in all, there really is no other concert setting anywhere that can attract 4 generations of fans under the same roof from all backgrounds and socio-economic classes in the manner TSO accomplishes. Demographics, musical preferences, and even religious philosophies are put aside in favor of just sitting back and taking in a very unique, extraordinarily well-done, original Christmas Rock ‘n’ Roll show. Kudos again go out to Paul O’Neill, Jon Oliva, and all of the TSO musicians and support technicians for unifying music fans, young and old, each and every holiday season in a bigger and better way … even if it’s just for 2.5 hours out of the year!


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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