Trans-Siberian Orchestra a spectacle beyond belief

Written by Scott Mervis on .

TSOSaturday marks the third time I’ve seen the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and I still can’t get over the fact that it exists.

That the guys from Savatage can get 30,000 people (give or take) into the Consol Energy Center for a heavy metal Christmas show is a holiday miracle in itself.

I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s hard to sit there without feeling a little embarrassed by the circus-style spectacle complete with a Gothic cathedral backdrop, massive light show, lasers, pyro, fog, hot female singers in spandex and musicians who whip their hair back and forth and make wildly exaggerated gestures with virtually every note.

The embarrassing thing is that it’s all pretty entertaining, especially if you’re sitting there with a wide-eyed kid.

TSO is so popular and the holiday window is so tight, there are East Coast and West Coast versions of the ensemble. This one sported the dueling guitars from Savatage’s Chris Caffery and Night Ranger’s Joel Hoekstra and impressive keyboard work from Derek Weiland, who gets to play everything from hard rock to Peanuts to Beethoven.

There was also a local string section, who must be amazed to be sitting so close to flashpots, a cast of eight singers, including Broadway star Rob Evan, and narrator Bryan Hicks, who surely will be booked someday to be the voice of God. Creator/producer Paul O’Neill made a pair of cameo appearances on guitar.

TSO did two shows Saturday on a second straight tour performing “The Lost Christmas Eve,” this time for the last time, so they say. The 2004 rock opera about a Scrooge-y businessman who learns the value of Christmas works in such pieces as the TSO’s bombastic Christmas classic “Wizards in Winter” (which everyone has heard on a commercial), “Wish Liszt” (a re-working of Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2”) and “Christmas Canon Rock,” which re-works Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

It went on a bit long and there was at least one too many gravelly-voiced lead vocals from the guys, but it held your interest thanks to the stage dazzle.

The second half was a fun free-for-all with “The Mountain,” a pounding gothic piece from “Night Castle” (with amazing dragon video on top of the stage castle) and the fiery devilry of “Carmina Burana,” which might be the furthest thing from a Christmas carol.

After a Beethoven medley, it came to a holiday climax with “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” which turns “Carol of the Bells” into something more like “Carol of the (Hell’s) Bells.” If you live in the Hill District or anywhere near the Consol, you might have felt a power surge during that one, because the TSO was using every available watt.

You might have to check whatever shred you have of good taste at the door, but if you can do that, TSO is a blast.

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