Concert Recollection: A Christmas Shredfest

Since once again SNL is pure crap (with the exception of Maroon 5 tonight), I’m back in post mode.  For a change, tonight we have a recollection from an event that happened a mere 2 days ago.  Norm for these is at least a month or two later.  That is self imposed wanting to give some soak time to see what really left an impression.  If I still remember it then it is probably something that struck me as interesting… and gives an excuse for any embellishments that might creep in ha!  The sad truth of it is two days seems like a month with the pace going on around here lately so it fits the model anyway.

So Thursday night Linda and I went to see Trans Siberian Orchestra.  This has become a traditions of sorts since we’ve made an effort to see them for the last 6 or so years (maybe more).  If I recall, last year we saw their show in the January timeframe which was entirely too late – once Christmas is past, the desire to see Christmas themed shows drops faster than Charlie Brown trying to kick a football.  This year they passed through on the other side of that equation – a week before Thanksgiving.  The merchant bastards have all but destroyed Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays making it more tolerable I guess.  The good news is they promised a whole new show!  So the first question is … have you ever been to a TSO concert?

If you said “No”, then you are probably in for a surprise…. and you might want to call up your shrink since you have apparently started talking back to the web.  If you were like me, you assume any show with Orchestra in the name would consist of curved rows of penguins performing a synchronized ballet with strings and wind instruments playing technically perfect classical music – probably Bach, Mozart and others from the days of cinched up waists and powdered wigs.

Let’s see:

  • Penguins – umm I guess you could call them tuxes but rented from Alice Cooper’s closet
  • Curved rows – there were 8 seats in the corner of the stage
  • Strings – definitely, the traditional kind and the 6/4 string axes
  • Wind instruments – not so much
  • Classic music – yes.. well, technically, just imagine that sheet music being kidnapped by heavy metal rockers, given enough coke to stay up a month straight, percolated in a vat of pure energy and then spit out on a wall of light, smoke and fire.

Get the impression this isn’t your everyday trip to the symphony.  Nope, this is really an all out assault on the senses.  At the beginning of the concert members come out on stage to hand out a huge (literally) check to a local charity.  They have done this ever since they started playing and a nice touch especially in these trying times.  One dollar of every ticket (not the walk ups) is given back to the community – this year it was over $6K for the Children’s Hospital which was very fitting based on the story line of their new show.  The other key part of this pre-concert event is they always ask who has never been to a TSO concert.  I think this is purposely done for everyone in the audience that has seen their show before – it points out the people we should keep an eye on.

These are the people that become either a little panicky or excited the minute the show starts.  Why is that?  Well, that is when the stage starts revving up, the backdrop begins to shimmer, the chillers push out the heavy fog, the light pods raise up high into the air, the digital backdrops begin their bombardment of visuals and the lasers (that’s right.. .lasers) start tracing the stage.  First new item of the show, a huge timepiece begins moving across the stage … spewing fire.  Back to the newbies.  At this point, there is really only two expressions.  There is either absolute panic that they made a wrong turn somewhere and they are about to be sacrificed to some metal god or pure relief that being dragged to this event isn’t going to feel like the dentist.

Hit the jump read and see more of the show!

There is actually two shows in one when it comes to TSO.  The first part is more of the Christmas themed show complete with a telling of a story intermixed by incredible singing and and and and… actually not sure how to characterize this.  Imagine 2 keyboards, drums, 2 guitars, bass, an electric violin and a string group from the local symphony doing a fantastic rendition of Dream Theater or Testament covering the classics.  Here’s the narrator delivering the storyline which was as advertised, brand new.  All of the previous shows had the same storyline of a young girls trials and tribulations on a lost Christmas Eve.  This year the story took on a more tragic twist about a father’s loss of faith after losing his wife and assumed son during the birth (which makes the Children’s Hospital charity a logical fit).

After this story comes to its conclusion, the second part of the show begins.  In the past, this has been the time to watch all the gray hair fleeing the arena.  This year the crowd seemed to tip younger and they were definitely liking what they were seeing.  This second half is when TSO lets their hair down and the stage designers get to strut their stuff.  Out comes the fire, the lasers are amped up and the digital medium goes into seizure inducing mode.  This is also when I have to keep an eye on Linda – nothing like suffering from migraines and being in the middle of New Year’s Eve, Fourth of July, Chinese New Year and the Peoria Festival Lights all wrapped into one tightly package gift complete with ribbons of pyro.  She made it through with flying colors!

Here’s more of their set in action.  They have added to their stage every year they have come here.  Intriguing this year was the removal of the walkways which enabled the performers to ascend into the rafters and bring the show closer to the fans in the cheap seats.  They still had the second stage at the back of the arena where they introduce those people to what it’s like closer to the main stage – hot and bright.  It can get very intense at times to the point I have to look away a bit to keep the eyes from flaking out since LASIK already adds extra shimmer to standard headlights.

My curiosity was addressed later in the show.  Turns out the walkways were still a part of the show.  Now they are built into the main stage.  There are 6 sections that raise up from the center of the stage giving the pole dancers a chance to take the spotlight.  Wait, did I mention yet they employee a set of back up singers with many talents?  The front of the stage actually has two firetruck ladder type devices that allow them to reach out into the crowd.  You can see them coming out in the shot below.  They extended out and rotated toward the side putting the musicians directly eye level with the upper bowl.

Oh, ended up I had a picture of the rear stage.  This consisted of two additional extending platforms which had a mini light and fire show attached to them.  From where we were sitting, this looked to be a pretty rickety setup.  It would actually sway at least a foot off center and none of them seemed to mind the extra security from the safety belts.  Unlike the front extenders, these back ones were really chunky rather than a smooth hydraulic motion.  They might want to look at the mechanics of that for their future show.

At the Stones concert they had little blinking lips you could purchase.  AC/DC had light up devil horns which looked a little spooky in the dark of the audience.  Not to be outdone, TSO had this.

A poor shot from my camera phone, but any guesses?  Those are actually glow stick straws in snow cones.  Not sure how well those were selling since it was like 35 degrees out and the vendors kept passing me with the same number of empty slots (two).  They also tried selling cotton candy with a glow stick handle.  I know these did not go over well since they were busy pulling the handles out the bags and selling them for a buck outside the civic center immediately after the show.

I had a great time and I think Linda did as well (I’ll let her leave her impressions and observations in the comments if she is willing).  If you have never seen TSO before and prefer your classical music with some guitar shredding and driving drums then this is the show for you.  If you have seen TSO before and getting a little bored of their storyline, then you are in luck.  One downside is they removed the “bum” song which was probably my favorite part of the show (and the guy who usually sang that part was from Peoria).  They did come through and do the “Coming home on Christmas Day” (sorry, do not know actual name of the song) towards the end of the show which is my second favorite song of the show.  This was their first show of their new concert tour and yes, it passed the test and Played in Peoria.  This year we had the opportunity to see the West Coast troop.  Probably prefer the East Coast group due in part of the band’s leader being more interactive with the crowd but it was good to see what the other venues have been experiencing in the previous years.

Rock On TSO – we’ll see ya next year.

6 thoughts on “Concert Recollection: A Christmas Shredfest”

  1. The songs you like are actually called “This Christmas Day” and I think “Old City Bar.” I thought this year was really good and I was glad they came up with a new opening as it did refresh the show.

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  2. Holy Toledo! Any epileptic fits in the audience, by any chance? I about had one reading the post.

    I saw “Concert Recollection” in the title and thought, “Yes! Finally the story of the Hank Williams, Jr., concert!” And then I thought you probably don’t have a recollection of that anyway–at least, it appears that way since Linda keeps bringing up the cops and you don’t remember anything.

    Ron

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  3. You’re right, that is the name of the two songs – actually just watched a video of it again on YouTube (even the East Coast version of it as well with the dude from Peoria). Good to know I can actually watch it whenever I want now although might not want to get that to far out, people might think my musical tastes are softening as I age… of course, there are rumors that another Alice Cooper concert is in the works for us.

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  4. I didn’t see any medics running through the audience but you would think there would be some kind of warning on the tickets are minimally at the entrance.

    Good lord, this Hank Williams Jr. rumor will not die – almost worse than a reporter putting words in your mouth and then being held accountable as if you actually said them. You are correct, I do not have a recollection of ME attending a Hank concert because it is hard to have a memory that didn’t happen – actually I think the word in this case is “fantasy” (or slander depending on our perspective). Now I do vividly remember Linda attending one with her mom if that is what you are referring to … cause that’s the way she rolls. Maybe she could type up a guest post on it since so many people seems eager to know how it was.

    Oh great, now it comes garnished with “cops”

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  5. Regarding cops at the Hank Williams, Jr., concert, I went back and found this reference to the REO concert:

    “To be honest there was blood at the REO concert and one very inebriated chick at the concert the next day whose friend was trying to convince the cops and medics she suffered from “Insomiminomia”. I love this fair.”

    So I figured cops were a regular feature at all these fair concerts you attend, and I innocently merged Linda’s remarks on you ending up on TV that night and the cops angle into a really sordid tale that nevertheless has proved entertaining to everyone who’s heard it. In fact, I’m thinking of entering a storyteller competition after I run it by Mom.

    At one point I started doing web searches on Hank Williams, Jr., concerts looking for newspaper articles that would describe the night you went and any photographs of the crowd. I have an immense amount of spare time. I did find a couple of reviews, but they were more about the singer and less about the crowd. It may be that my impression of cop involvement was reinforced by scanning those news articles. It’s so axiomatic that I think you would have to prove the converse. As Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    Ron

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  6. The truth begins to emerge – I guess that is the lesser of evils right now, I’d hate to see what you could come up with if you mixed up some of the other posts in this blog .. maybe even cause Homeland Security to start opening my mail. Again, I am SURE there were cops at this fair (Linda’s brother for one) but since I WAS NOT THERE I can’t really confirm or deny it beyond conjecture… hey, I like that word better than fantasy.

    I’m glad to see you are putting your free time to good use. All that time I used up trying to figure out who the chicks were in the Hardees commercial doesn’t make feel as bad anymore (and if you are curious at least one of them is not shy in front of the camera)

    Ummm and let’s leave Mom on out this – she has enough to worry about with me not eating my green beans and all.

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