Concert Review

Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Arena on Sunday, November 23

For more images of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, check out the slideshow by photographer Victor Palagano.

By Niki D'Andrea

Sometimes, we do things we don't want to do because the people we love want to do them. Such was the case with me attending the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert last night at Arena in Glendale. I hadn't planned to attend the show, but I couldn't refuse in the face of my girlfriend's unbridled enthusiasm.

Turns out, it was a pretty damn spectacular show, and her enthusiasm wasn't for naught. We were sitting on the floor, in the eleventh row, dead-center from the stage, and there were moments when I swore the massive laser show was going to either eat my head or induce a seizure.

The show began with a barrage of high-tech, moving stage lights; multi-colored lasers; and three of TSO's players being lowered from the ceiling on risers all aglow in swirling neon red lights. "They look like such rock stars!" My girlfriend proclaimed.

And they did. On the left riser was one of TSO's two guitar players, flinging his long, blond hair from side to side. On the right riser, TSO's raven-haired bass player, who looked rather like a lurching goth composer, or Trent Reznor's cousin. In the center was a really hot female violinist, flinging her long, dark hair all over the place and raising her instrument up triumphantly over her head with every pause in her playing.

The theatrics were just beginning. As the smooth, deep-voiced narrator (who could easily give James Earl Jones a run for his money) began to tell the story of an angel flying around the world on Christmas eve, the entire backdrop behind the stage was lit up with twinkling stars. During the first vocal number, synthetic snow fell in huge, swirling flurries over the audience and down upon the stage. There were red lasers, green lasers, purple swirling lasers, flashing red and green stars, pyrotechnics, and enough stroboscopic effects to give me the worst headache of my life.

In fact, I daresay the light and special effects show at the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert was the best I've ever seen -- and I've seen hundreds of shows, including the Grateful Dead and all variety of Pink Floyd laser spectaculars, from Roger Waters' solo tour for The Wall to the Australian Pink Floyd Show. There were three massive lighting rigs above the stage that moved in all directions, in addition to four moving rigs behind the band. The special effects sucked me in and held my attention, even during the low-key, hokey "Christmas-hope-joy-etc." operatic vocal numbers. It was well worth the migraine to see such an over-the-top effects show.

Musically, I was impressed with TSO's larger-than-life sound. The instrumental numbers were a deft blend of traditional Christmas songs, familiar classical numbers, and symphonic classic rock. Where else can you hear "Hark to the Bells," "Joy to the World," the riff from Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile," and Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," all in the same place?

All in all, I was glad I went to the show, and not just because my girlfriend was all hyped up about it. I could have done without the cheesy seasonal stuff, but Christmas is TSO's tack, after all.

Critic's Notebook:

Better than: Trippin' balls on acid at the mall.

Random detail: $1 from every TSO ticket sold was donated to Sojourner House, a non-profit which provides housing for victims of domestic abuse.

Personal bias: I'm not the biggest fans of songs about Baby Jesus.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea