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Trans-Siberian Orchestra Electrifies in Return to Music City

by Rich and Laura Lynch

In the decades that Nashville has been known as Music City a plethora of musical instruments have been used on stage and in the recording studios that have put this town on the map. But, it's a safe bet to say that never before has a gigantic Tesla Coil been put in play to help keep the beat in rhythmic support of a song. Yet, that is exactly what happened when Trans-Siberian Orchestra - the famed purveyor of bombastic Christmas cheer - brought their Winter Tour 2019 "Christmas Eve and Other Stories" to the Bridgestone Arena on December 04, 2019.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Electrifies in Return to Music City
TSO returned to Nashville with their most fiery show yet.

A lot has changed since Trans-Siberian Orchestra first played the Ryman Auditorium in 2001. Most notably - the Wizards of Winter who emerged from the mind of founder, producer, composer, and lyricist Paul O'Neill and built upon the bones of the heavy metal band Savatage - have gone on to become one of the top concert revenue generating tours annually. The demand for their over the top holiday shows is so great that they often play two events per day while canvassing the country with two traveling production units - TSO East and TSO West. Thus, collectively they achieve nearly 5 months of performances in only six weeks time.

Sadly, O'Neill passed away in April 2017 due to complications from chronic ailments. In July of that year TSO East bass player David Z died in a horrible accident while on the road with Adrenaline Mob - the band fronted by TSO East singer Russell Allen who was also severely injured in a crash involving the band's vehicles and a tractor trailer. Jane Train, that group's tour manager, passed away five weeks later as a result of her injuries. Then in November just as this year's festivities got underway word came out that one-time TSO singer Maxx Mann had also died suddenly. So, it's not all illusion and fantasy for the fantastic troupe. When you're dealing with actual human beings, artists and musicians - reality does sometimes rear it's ugly head.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Electrifies in Return to Music City
Joel Hoekstra and Tony Dickinson embody the essence of TSO.

What defines this year's much anticipated trek that has become a holiday tradition and draw across the United States is how the outfit continues to deal with the loss of their most important creative force - Paul O'Neill. Trans-Siberian Orchestra decided to revisit one of their more popular tales by revamping "Christmas Eve and Other Stories" that last saw a public airing eight years ago rolling back the clock to presumably happier times for the outfit that is now in it's twenty-first year of existence.

Shortly after 7:30 long-time guitarist Chris Caffery emerged with a large check made out to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in the amount of $11,058 representing a donation of one dollar from each paid ticket sale for the evening's performance. The TSO six-stringer explained that it was good to be back in Nashville after a break of several years and then remarked that it was the East's first time taking the stage in Music City. Giving to local charities was a generous and important initiative begun by Paul O'Neill and to date approximately $16 million has been donated by the group to a variety of worthy causes.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Electrifies in Return to Music City
TSO singer Dustin Brayley strikes a dramatic pose in Music City.

Caffery returned to the mic to address the Bridgestone faithful in the middle of the second half to talk more about missing their creative founder and lyricist. He described how he and members of the group discovered some old tapes and demos from O'Neill resulting in the emotional high point of the night when the song "Can You Hear Me Now" made it's Tennessee debut. Attendees who happened to pick up the 2019 tour book had more reason to be excited. In a letter to their fans TSO acknowledged that this year's look back to the past represents a transition period as they look to the future that will see a new Paul O'Neill concept come to life. The missive announced that the first steps are underway to marry the best of the rock industry and theater world to create a hybrid featuring all the bells and whistles that Trans-Siberian Orchestra have become known for.

In addition to the giant and unexpected Tesla ball that rose from behind the soundboard and crackled with real live lightning for much of the second half the production this year included a sinister amount of pyro. The dastardly and seemingly dangerous flames often moved in time to the music while dancing perilously in the direction of the cast onstage. What was missing from previous productions was the much loved indoor snowstorm and the TSO trademarked elevated platforms that moved the players out over the audience. Instead, several members of the cast took repeated romps through the floor section of the arena which was like getting a Hyundai when you wanted a Ferrari under the tree.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Electrifies in Return to Music City
More scenes from the electrifying return to Nashville.

Still, you can't miss something if it doesn't go away and perhaps these elements will return in the future to really knock the stockings off the mantle once again. The clock is ticking and Christmas will be back before we know it along with the holiday tradition that is TSO. We can't wait to see what they have in store for us next time around.

SETLIST: Who I Am | Christmas Eve and Other Stories | An Angel Came Down | O Come All Ye Faithful / O Holy Night | The Prince of Peace | First Snow | A Mad Russian's Christmas | Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (Savatage cover) | Good King Joy | Ornament | Old City Bar | Promises to Keep | This Christmas Day | An Angel Returned | Epilogue | Second Half | The Storm / The Mountain | Handful of Rain (Savatage cover) | Mozart/Figaro | Christmas Canon Rock | Wizards in Winter | Can You Hear Me Now | Beethoven | Believe (Savatage cover) | Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness) | Requiem (The Fifth) | Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (Reprise) (Savatage cover)

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Electrifies in Return to Music City
TSO remains one of rock's most charitable bands.

Related Links: For more information on TSO and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Trans-Siberian Orchestra | Bridgestone Arena


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