LIVE: Trans Siberian Orchestra’s Magic Lights Up the Times Union 12/19/2019
The Trans Siberian Orchestra played to an almost sold out crowd at the Times Union Center on December 19th. This was their 20th year bringing their holiday show to Albany and their 21st year together. Fans of TSO were rocking along, banging their head to the Christmas-turned-rock music, many of whom had children in tow to share the experience.
Performing their show “Christmas Eve,” the first half of the evening followed an angel who traveled the world on Christmas Eve. Narrated by Bryan Hicks, who dramatically told the story within a story of a lonely man in a bar on Christmas Eve, the plot was punctuated by Christmas songs and visuals that repeated the theme that kindness, not gifts or money, should be the center of the holiday. A bit predictable, and yet entirely sweet (and not saccharine, as it was clear the performers of each song deeply resonated with the message), “Christmas Eve” focused on the common themes of giving to others without expecting anything in return.
The second half of the show showcased each musician’s talent as they tore through some original hits as well as some familiar classical music reimagined. All were accompanied by a laser light show, some pyrotechnics, and high energy jumping, running and dancing by the musicians.
The large band included two keyboards, three guitars, male and female vocalists, and a wicked violin accompanied by a small group of local string musicians. Guitarist Joel Hoekstra’s showmanship, especially his ability to hold dramatic poses in his gold high tops, stood out as a really fun highlight of the show, as did Roddy Chong’s enthusiastic choreography as he fiddled the night away.
The band paid a nostalgic nod to TSO Founder, Paul O’Neill, by performing a gritty “Can You Hear Me Now,” a piece the band heard on a cassette recording of their deceased creator earlier this year. The song spoke to life being short, and making the most of one’s time here. It was a dramatic and poignant moment for the band members, many of whom nodded as Chris Caffery explained the history of the song.
But the true show stopper were the visuals that accompanied the quality music. From laser shows to light snow showers to fire shooting from the stage, the set transformed with each song and suspended any disbelief the audience might have about the band’s integrity of mission. They set out to create magic, and there was no doubt that magic was created.
They are, after all, classically trained musicians who are using their training to bend classical and traditional holiday music toward rock in a way that is both surprising and delightful for fans. By using intense visuals that transport the audience to a pirate ship, a thunderstorm, and even an old city bar, fans were momentarily removed from the TU Center and magically lifted out of reality.
The Trans Siberian Orchestra delivers on its promises for an entertaining, high energy show that showcases talent as well as visual artistry. For the many fans in the stands, it was clearly a family holiday ritual that was repeated year after year.