Trans-Siberian Orchestra Rings In The Bells and A Heck of Amount of Lights in St. Paul Minnesota At The Xcel Energy Center on December 27, 2021

 

Well, if Charles Dickens, Freddie Mercury, the Las Vegas Strip, and Pink Floyd got together and had a baby, that baby’s name would be Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This holiday spectacular concert was just a smidgen of each that came together to complete one. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul Minnesota. I had always heard about the TSO show but never had the opportunity to attend and catch this famous holiday performance. You know I always talk about the weather when I write my articles because you never know what you’re going to get when you walk outside of the house for a concert or other activities.  You could have a snowstorm and a tornado on the same day. Last night was no exception for the frozen tundra we live in. Frozen car door handles and large amounts of ice everywhere you walk presenting you with a personal skating rink. I honestly hate getting out in the middle of the winter here to do anything because it gets so frigidly cold and last night it was all brisk 5 degrees (below 0 with the wind chill factor). But I wanted to see the show and get an idea of all of the hype I always hear about.

We arrived at the Xcel Energy Center around 8:00 PM and it looked as if nobody was out. There were a few stragglers coming into the venue. We were given some amazing seats so I could review the concert. I guess it must have been the photographer row because I recognized a few people. The venue was absolutely packed to the gills. It was a sold-out house. As I walked in from the back, I was greeted with a frenzied hail of lights immediately. I wasn’t sure if somebody was landing planes or aliens were abducting everyone in the building. The light show was an undertaking I had never seen before. And little did I know that was only a part of it and would become even more spectacular as the evening went on. All 2 1/2 to three hours of it. Yes, you heard me right.

The evening included an abundance of stories as narrated by Storyteller Bryan Hicks. The Christmas Eve & Other Stories similar to the Charles Dickinson Christmas classics, songs from all familiar Christmas carols, holiday church hymns, and classical symphonic pieces of Mozart and Beethoven. Mr. Hicks’ narrated version was like coming home to a warm cabin and sitting down with the steaming cup of hot chocolate and cozy slippers. I could honestly have listened to him for hours as he told stories. He reminded me of an old friend who welcomed you into his home and you honestly didn’t want to leave. The multi-dimensional story included no less than an eight-person vocal change between various female and male vocalists. I honestly started losing count on the change of singers after a while. I did see some familiar musicians from some of my favorite rock bands. Drummer Blas Elias from Slaughter and vocalist Dino Jelusic featured on the Dirty Shirley album with legendary guitarist George Lynch. The set included numerous musicians on stage at any time, including two keyboardists, two guitar players, a violinist and bassist as well as a small orchestra at the rear left of the stage. My favorite vocalist for the evening had to be the females who displayed such a powerhouse style. I can say I was actually taken to church last night. For those that believe, you could honestly feel the Holy Spirit in the house. There was no denying that you could feel God’s presence during certain songs that touched you down in your soul. They reminded me of the days that I spent in small southern churches back home.

The technical aspect of the show is astonishing. The number of casts involved, a small orchestra, the change in scenery and lighting, and even the snow falling from the ceiling. I wondered if they were pumping in sound and smell during the concert to get you more invested in the show. It felt as if I could smell fire roasting and hot chocolate as well as feel the wind through my hair when I heard the wind during certain scenes. Each song presented a diverse scene on stage that was animated with digital screens and floating orbs from the ceiling. There were giggles and joyous laughter coming from children and adults alike in the audience. Scenes changed from toy stores to stary nights and during the songs from a toy store to an old city. All of this was done through video screens and really specific lighting detail. My understanding is that each show and each town features a specific number of musicians and an entourage of over 125 people including crew members. The touring season is about two months out of the year because most other musicians have other gigs. But you have to say that these are the best out of the best for the shop.

As I looked around and I watched the faces of so many people in the audience, I saw him moms and dads with their children, senior couples as well as friends smiling and laughing. Every so often someone would yell I love you Angus or I love you Dino from the audience. It still had that rock concert vibe like when you were young and someone would yell accolades to their favorite band member. A huge favorite of course is twenty-five year veteran Al Pitrelli. The members of the cast were interactive with the audience and mentioned familiar faces in the crowd. A large majority of the crowd seemed to be regulars returning year after year. The musical talent involved in the project is some of the best of the best in the business. I did question if the lights and scenery were not present, would it be a less than stellar performance from some of those involved? It is a more laid-back scene on stage from the normal rock concert I am used to. I felt more drawn to the vocalist and light performance than I was to some of the performances. But regardless of my opinion, this progressive rock show has inspired generations of fans who continue their annual pilgrimage to watch the professional and talented display of showmanship and musicality. The finale was the Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (Reprise). Both guitarist Angus Clark and violinist Asha Mevlana made their way onto scaffolding platforms that were morphed into a variety of shapes pivoting them above and across the audience. All the while the final shifting color of lights and full rock band ensemble plays as they take us to the end with a pyrotechnic finale. The heat from the fire could be felt from the 11th row. I commend these folks for being on stage when this happens, however not my hair thank you.

I did hear someone call it blue hair heavy metal because of the hymn songs and old classic Christmas songs used. OK, I’ll take that. But you have to understand that the classics are a given to history and familiarity. The exposure effect to these songs is in a way that other music is not exposed to us. It’s just that Trans-Siberian Orchestra spin on it makes it a little more lively, a little more fun, and a little metal. This is something that everybody can go see and get their fill of Christmas spirit in a rock kind of way. The vision that Paul O’Neill had for TSO to push boundaries further than any group before has been conceived and cemented in rock history. The numbers cannot lie especially with a $66.8 million dollar record for the year 2019. Whatever your taste in music, this is one show you should not miss.

 

Band:

Al Pitrelli – Guitar

Joel Hoekstra – Guitar

Angus Clark – Guitar

Chris Caffery – Guitar

John Lee Middleton – Bass

Tony Dickinson – Bass

Jeff Scott Soto – Vocals

Kayla Reeves – Vocals

April Berry – Vocals

John Brink – Vocals

Jodi Katz – Vocals

Dino Jelusic – Vocals

Andrew Ross – Vocals

Dustin Brayley – Vocals

Georgia Napolitano – Vocals

Erika Jerry – Vocals

Nate Amor – Vocals

Russell Allen – Vocals

Rosa Laricchiuta – Vocals

Zak Stevens – Vocals

Robin Borneman – Vocals

Natalya Rose Piette – Vocals

Caleb Johnson – Vocals

Chloe Lowery – Vocals

Ashley Hollister – Vocals

Asha Mevlana – Strings

Roddy Chong – Strings

Blas Elias – Drums

Jeff Plate – Drums

Bryan Hicks – Storyteller

Phillip Brandon – Storyteller

Derek Wieland – Keyboards

Mee Eun Kim – Keyboards

Jane Mangini – Keyboards

Vitalij Kuprij – Keyboards

Dave Z –   1979-2017

Paul O’Neill   1957-2017

 

 

 

Setlist:

1.) Welcome

2.) Beethoven

Christmas Eve & Other Stories

3.) An Angel Came Down

4.) Come All Ye Faithful / O Holy Night

5.) The Prince of Peace

6.) First Snow

7.) A Mad Russian’s Christmas

8.) Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)

9.) Good King Joy

10.) Ornament

11.) Old City Bar

12.) Promises to Keep

13.) This Christmas Day

14.) An Angel Returned

15.) Epilogue

2nd Half

16.) Mozart and Memories

17.) Joy of Man’s Desire / An Angel’s Share

18.) Christmas Canon Rock

19.) The Three Kings and I / Christmas Jam

20.) A Little Too Far

21.) Carmina Burana

22.) Wizards in Winter

23.) Requiem (The Fifth)

24.) Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (Reprise)

 

 

 

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As a Minneapolis-based professional freelance photographer and photojournalist, I feel I have a passion for sharing new perspectives of the world. Since picking up my first DSLR camera, I have been hooked ever since. Striving to capture the rawest forms of emotion through my photos, I am determined to make the viewer feel as if they were there too. Whether I am photographing landscapes, families, children, events, or concerts, I feel I have a way of capturing the true essence of the moment and finding the extraordinary in an ordinary place. I am always looking for a creative outlet through my art, I find myself drawn to concerts as a rock music lover. You will find me right up front in the pit with everyone else. I have documented tours with some of the biggest artists in rock history including George Lynch, Judas Priest, Billy Idol, Slaughter, Vince Neil, Rick Springfield, and many more. I continue to push boundaries with my work and strive to capture some of the most iconic moments that represent the vibe of the artists and crowd as well as the atmosphere of the overall event. I am a contributor for All Music Magazine and a published photographer including features in Guitar Magazine and a feature cover photo on George Lynch's 2021 solo album. Some of my clients include Morley Pedals, Rat Pak Records, Two Notes Audio, and many more. "I capture emotions, not images."

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