Lunatic's Serenade

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Trans-Siberian Orchestra Arena, November 29, 2014

"For somewhere on this night of nights, she's looking to among the ghosts on Christmas Eve" (O'Neil/Kinkel)

Sure you sang the songs, heard the bedtime stories and read the Bible verses telling about the world's first Christmas Eve, (and other stories) but if you've never seen the words "Trans-Siberian Orchestra", have never spoken them or have had them enter your ears - you're missing out on the tales of Christmas as told through the heavy metal eyes of super composer Paul O'Neil.

Keeping true to the Words of Christmas, Paul has composed three tales of lost souls found and broken homes united. Tonight, the family took a road trip to the arena in Glendale, Arizona, where O'Neil's group of fantastic artists put on a magical display of the second installment of his trilogy, "The Christmas Attic" - a tale of a girl with a big imagination and a heart to match.

The stage is dark and all you see is a giant treasure chest. The music plays, the lid opens and the Orchestra rises out. They play two dramatic pieces of music to set the scene: "Time and Distance" (an unreleased song) and "Winter Palace" from the EP "Dreams of Fireflies". The lighted backdrop is all the light you see as it takes you through scenes of snow in forests and arriving at a huge castle then a brief silence...

Narrator extraordinaire, Phillip Brandon guides us through this tale of a little girl who finds a chest full of old letters in her attic on Christmas Eve. It's a roller coaster of emotions as the story unfolds. With the telling of the tale and the power of the words and music, you get pulled in - then all of a sudden, it's you in the attic.

The lights flash and dance as they begin with the instrumental "Boughs of Holly". The song fills the air with excitement. The crowd cheers as members of the band raise their hand to their ears for louder responses. The next songs unfold the pages as the girl begins to read; "The world that she sees", "Midnight, Christmas Eve". The fun continues with some outrageous stage effects. Two long risers lift one the guitar players and bassist as a separate riser in the middle take up the other guitarist and violinist. The band plays on, the laser lights flash and stream. Arizona's local string section backs up TSO with surgical attack on violins, violas and cellos. There are different singers for every song; each with their own style and flavor - all delivering a powerful, soulful performance.

The gripping part of the night, for me is always the story telling. Phillip Brandon can read the phone book and bring tears to your eyes. Then you have the best in the West, Al Pitrelli (Guitar/Music Director), Asha Mevlana - Violin, Angus Clark - Guitar, Jane Mangini - Keys, Vitalij Kuprij- Keys, John O' Reilly- Drums and Johnny Lee Middleton on Bass. These players can run all up and down the stage, through the crowded aisles and not miss a beat. Oh, and did I mention being lifted 20-30 feet in the air while playing non-stop?

"The gripping part of the night, for me is always the story telling."

On vocals are the highly talented stylings of Andrew Ross, Ava Davis, Jodi Katz, April Berry, John Brink - (new gal) Gabriela Guncikova, soul men - Jeff Scott Soto and Nathan James with heartbreakers Chloe Lowery and Bart Shatto; all enforcing the feeling, emotion and energy of The Christmas Attic.

After a grand ovation for the band, super conductor Al Pitrelli has us keep it going for our brothers and sisters in the armed forces. (They indeed deserve more than mere applause) Then he asked if it was cool if the effects crew could blow stuff up and they did! I believe Bevis and Butthead said it best when they said, "Fire..heh-heh-Fire!!" The encore consisted of "Christmas Jam", (Savatage's) "Prelude to Madness", the ballad  "Someday" sung by Gabriela Guncikova who also sang the next tune "'Night Conceives". Ultra badass, Jeff Scott Soto belts out "Sparks", takes a break for "Wizards in Winter", returns to warm your heart with "This Christmas Day". Incredible keyboard solos by Jane Mangini and Vitalij Kuprij and instrumentals "Requiem" and "Christmas Eve/Serajevo 12/24" (a  metal version of Carol of the Bells) end the lights and pyrotechnics that grow bigger and better every year. (Huge kudos the TSO sound, effects and road crew!)

If you haven't already, I urge you, implore you, challenge you to get a hold of The Christmas Trilogy by TSO. It comes with a DVD if you get the box set. If you don't believe in the power of Christmas, you will believe when you hear the whole thing or see the show.


Special thanks to my wife for the photos and video, and Zachary Griffy for helping me out with some of the names and  titles I didn't know. Thanks to the TSO community. YOU GUYS ROCK!!

Tim Duran, HMS

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