Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Arena, 12/30/11

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Arena Friday, December 30, 2011

See also:

Our complete Trans-Siberian Orchestra slideshow.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a lot like Christmas itself: The pretty lights are a good distraction from how over-the-top and annoying it can be. Both have some classy elements and are good for family fun, but after a couple hours, New Year's can't come soon enough.

That's not to say Trans-Siberian Orchestra didn't put on a good show. The band had an impressive production that could give the Pink Floyd experience a run for its money. TSO is notorious for its light show for good reason: Arena was filled with as many lasers as a typical electronica show, at least during the heavy songs anyway.

TSO's other claim to fame is its broad appeal. Its largest fanbase is obviously the Christmas demographic, and you can't fault them for it, it's what the group does best. Last night also attracted a few closet metalheads that timidly threw up the horns every so often, but when you're sitting in a sea of stagnant fans, it's hard to get really into the music without looking like a jackass.

Maybe I've been to too many quote unquote rock shows, but TSO could have benefited from that sort of jackassery. The show's highlights were tons of fun: Lasers, fire, fog machines, dancers, and guys that looked like Fabio. I appreciate both hard rock and classical music, and seeing them fused together was great. After all, what better way to get 'youngins interested in Beethoven than pairing the Fifth Symphony with distorted guitars and fireballs?

TSO's performance was an ensemble of various talents. Prog rock versions of holiday classics like "Carol of the Bells" were sprinkled amongst solo performances of a female singer with enough vocal range to shatter a glass and a narrator that looked and sounded like James Earl Jones. This fella told a story of a young girl summoning an angel to earth after making a wish on a neon sign in an old city bar, for lack of stars in the sky. It's the classic Christmas tale: Peace on earth, be kind to your fellow man, yada, yada, yada.

At first our humble narrator was entertaining, ushering in a starry night and a flurry of fake snow, but after awhile it wore thin, just like the homeless man's extended solo later on. It was a weird scene.

The first half of TSO's set combined Christmas and vague political commentary. I'm not sure what mixing videos of John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous speeches had to do with the performance, but it was interesting and weird, much like TSO's music.

The narrator briefly strayed from his Christmas tone to speak of people in Belfast, Burundi, Darfur, and Palestine killing in the name of the Lord and getting rewarded for bad deeds. He had an interesting point, until he talked about how the angel was moved by a lone cello playing Christmas music on the battlefield. Bring back the fire and lasers already!

After rocking versions of The Nutcracker Suite, the production took an ominous bad ass turn, displaying a large fanged snake opening and closing its mouth...oh, and there was fire once again. This seemed like the logical end to TSO's performance because it was pretty epic, but no, the lights faded out and yet another musician had a solo.

This happened three or four times until some guitarists and violinists climbed on a riser to perform above the crowd. The group returned to the stage, alongside the Glendale chapter of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, to go out in a blaze of glory complete with colorful fireballs, fireworks, and of course, lasers.

Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Arena. Personal Bias: Love light shows, hate Christmas music. The Crowd: Very diverse: Old ladies, kids, a guy dressed as Santa, prog rock geeks. Overheard in the Crowd: "This sounds like Van Halen." Random Notebook Dump: While I'm that glad $1 from each ticket went to Florence Crittendon, I'm a little disappointed that less than 6,000 people were at the matinee show.

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