at Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN, USA, December 22, 2008

There’s nothing like kicking off the holiday season early, especially when it comes via 150 minutes of a highly energetic stage-show extravaganza in the form of a Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) Christmas Concert! As many should know, due to ever-increasing popularity, TSO has actually been segmented into 2 separate bands to ensure that the greatest number of tour stops can be squeezed into the November/December Christmas Season. On this night at the remarkable Conseco Fieldhouse facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, approximately 4000 fans were thoroughly entertained by the TSO East faction that included:

Chris Caffery & Alex Skolnick – Guitars
Dave Z – Bass
Jeff Plate – Drums
Bob Kinkel & Mee Eun Kim – Keys
Mark Wood – Strings, and
A Local 8-piece Orchestra Ensemble along with a host of male and female Vocalists

The first thing that strikes you is the fact that the TSO stage production just seems to grow like a Chia Pet every year. Extra semi-trucks were again added this year to haul one of the most impressive visual stage shows in the history of music. Lights of all sorts, colors, and intensity levels, snow and smoke machines, a starlit backdrop, pyrotechnics, torches (that threw out an immense amount of heat when fired up, by the way), a hydraulic riser next to the sound boards in the middle of the audience … you name it, this TSO set-up probably has it incorporated into their set-up! But, all of the visuals still pale in comparison to the superb musicianship and sound generated by the TSO band members … after all, in the end that IS what a concert is all about, and TSO performs at an extraordinarily high level across the board.

TSO Back Riser

The Show was essentially divided into 2 segments: Full performance of Christmas Eve & Other Stories (including full narration of the story line), followed by performance of the “Greatest Hits” from TSO’s other releases, including a song performed from the much-anticipated Nightcastle release of the future. A cover version of Eric Clapton’s “Layla” was thrown in as a transitional piece to split the two segments, and Kinkel & Kim got to have a bit of fun too during a playful, dueling keyboard “I can do anything you can do better” section.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to see prior year TSO concerts, then you should pretty much know what to expect out of the first segment of the show, but the whole Christmas Holiday in society is centered on tradition and celebration, so it’s always nice to revisit this set, and with Paul O’Neill’s stage show creativity, additional “life” is added to the performance each and every year. Highlights of the first part, other than superb vocal performances across the board, would have to include the performance of “First Snow” with the always welcomed snow machines spewing stage snow into the audience – a nice way to add some winter ambience to the event, “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24),” and the emotional and very well-performed “Old City Bar.”

After the first segment, the comical Chris Caffery took over the microphone (and controlled the direction of the rest of the show), moving the second segment more this year towards a true Christmas/Orchestral Hard Rock TSO presentation. For the true Savatage/Metal/Hard Rock fans (and there were quite a few there), this was indeed a welcomed treat. The volume seemed to be turned up just a bit, the edge intensified, and the stage show progressed to a new level, with the band members becoming more animated and “into” their performance. Yes, many of the tuxedo jackets were shed, hair was let down, and Caffery, Skolnick, Plate, Z, and Wood on the Flying V violin simply let it all hang out. TSO concert attendee veterans know that the audience demographic ranges from 8 to 80 years old, making it that much more interesting to see even non-Metalheadz in the audience really getting into the band’s inspired second segment performance. Even the local Indianapolis Orchestra Ensemble, filled entirely with classically trained musicians, could be found bopping and gyrating in their seats to the sounds and excitement generated by the TSO core members.

TSO - Caffery & Plate

All in all, a truly outstanding show … one that warms the soul while still exercising the adrenaline glands. With a delightfully over-the-top stage production, TSO more than satisfied this appreciative Indianapolis audience, and undoubtedly continued to build their loyal following while spreading goodwill and Christmas cheer, showing at every turn that the best of Hard Rock and Orchestration, though an unlikely pair on the surface, can be blended together and packaged into a truly unique and unforgettable live experience.


  • 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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