at the Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC, USA, December 10, 2022

TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA (Live at the Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC, USA, December 10, 2022)
Photo: Jason McEachern

Like A Fine Wine… Getting Better With Age

Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a.k.a. TSO, has come a long way since their first-ever tour dates which started way back in December 1999. Having seen their career 8th show in Chicago, IL on December 18, 1999, it was a humble beginning as it was a time when many didn’t know who they were unless they were Savatage fans. Back then they played in a modest, 2,500-seat capacity theatre in Chicago called the Riveria Theatre. The lights and stage show were modest as well and satisfied the Christmas vibe offered by the show that essentially had only the first album, Christmas Eve and Other Stories, to draw from.

Flash forward to this night, December 10, 2022, which is the exact 23rd anniversary of their very first show back on December 10, 1999, in Philadelphia, and the popularity of the band has grown exponentially in twenty-three years. Now the band only plays in major stadiums and fills them, and their audience contains multiple generations of concertgoers, from small children to elderly adults. TSO’s popularity has grown to such levels that they needed to split up into two touring groups years ago; one for the East Coast and one for the West. Very few bands or concerts have this lasting range of appeal. And that’s not even including discussion about the enormity of the current lights and stage show presentation compared to 23 years ago! All this excitement over a band with six full albums and one EP and the latest new material dating back to 2015!

In The Hall Of The Mountain Kings!

TSO East's Chris & Joel
Chris Caffery & Joel Hoekstra
Photo: Scott Jeslis

North Carolina is located on the East Coast of the United States so on this night Charolette was treated to TSO’s East Coast “division”. And Metalheads couldn’t have been happier as this touring group included three members of Savatage as well as one “Whitesnake”.

The blood starts racing when the intensity of the show’s opener “Fate”, from Beethoven’s Last Night propels into action and kicks off the first of two shows today. This one started about a quarter after 3 PM EST and lasted just over two hours. There is no longer an intermission halfway into the show but one of the founding members, Savatage guitarist Chris Caffery, took to the mic to talk to the audience cordially several times which gave the band several breathers.

Dedicated To The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve

The brunt of the setlist was entitled The Ghosts of Christmas Eve which focused on recreating most of the musical moments from the 1999 TV special of the same name. This included many selections from the first three Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas albums. The ten chosen tracks were interlaced with live storytelling moments by Bryan Hicks and included video segment backdrops from the TV special.

For those not familiar with the TV special; TSO songs were presented in such a way as to form a storyline. The story and video present a runaway teenage girl who takes cover in an abandoned theatre on Christmas Eve. She ends up experiencing the songs as ghostly visions from the theatre’s past which eventually leads to her returning home. If you haven’t followed the band’s current line-ups you might consider it a nice surprise to see vocalist Russell Allen (Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob) take the solo microphone for songs like “This Christmas Day”.

The Second Half Kicks It Up A Notch!

The second half of the show kicked up the voltage, and fire, as the whole stage and light show experience was taken to “new heights”, literally! The last hour was adorned with ramps ascending into the air, over the main floor crowd, and guitarists playing on lifts at the back of the auditorium. This is the verse where the Metalheads can’t help but bang their heads to epic classically induced Heavy Metal instrumentals like “A Mad Russian’s Christmas”, “Wizards In Winter”, the absolute balls blaster “Reqiuem (The Fifth)” and “Flight Of The Bumblebee”! And of course, we can’t forget the one song, of a total of two that US FM Christmas radio stations only seem to play, “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)”.

TSO 2022 Zak, Chris, Joel
Chris Caffery, Zak Stevens & Joel Hoekstra
Photo: Scott Jeslis

The second half was also heightened with an outstanding vocal performance by ex-Savatage vocalist, Zak Stevens on “Christmas In The Air” and a heartfelt performance by Kayla Reeves on the Savatage cover “If I Go Away”. This song is off Savatage’s Streets album and was dedicated to Trans-Siberian Orchestra visionary, Paul O’Neill (R.I.P.) which, incidentally, was the first “story concept” album Paul wrote.

Stamina To The Maximus!

Metalheads will also appreciate the show put on by guitarists Chris Caffery (Savatage), Joel Hoekstra (ex-Night Ranger, Whitesnake), violinist Roddy Chong and Tony Dickinson on bass. These guys cover the entirety of this enormous stage set running from end to end, up ramps, into the audience, and treat fans to classic Metal guitarist poses! Anyone who sees this show and afterward can take the stance that musicians are not to be considered athletes needs to look deeply inwards! It was also nice to see Jeff Plate from Savatage pounding out the drums. This isn’t to take away from any of the other performers including keyboardists, singers, string ensemble, etc. You’d be hard-pressed to find talent here not worthy of your praise!

TSO Closing 2022
TSO Closing 2022
Photo: Scott Jeslis

Having seen the band four times since their debut in 1999 it can only be said that each performance, even if you’ve seen it before, still contains the energy, excitement, and intensity of the first time attending any Trans-Siberian Orchestra experience! Even though audiences might walk in expecting a certain familiarity, concertgoers from Metal Heads to Senior Citizens will leave feeling entertained, ecstatic, and exhausted from what they have just witnessed! Still a highly recommended “must-see” experience even after twenty-three years!


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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