The Trans-Siberian Orchestra rings in the holiday season Saturday
When: 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17
Where: World Arena, 3185 Venetucci Blvd.
Tickets: $49-$69; 477-2100, ticketswest.com
Outstanding guitar solos. A massive light show. An insane sound production. Only 38 days before Christmas arrives.
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which is famous for blending distorted arpeggios with original Christmas rock opera ballads, returns to hail glorious holiday tidings this week.
With 280 million in ticket sales and seven million in record sales, TSO has been mentioned in Billboard magazine as one of the leading touring acts in the last 10 years, playing to over seven million people in more than 80 cities. They continue to hold captive audiences, sell out stadiums and wail Christmas anthems through unapologetic rock.
Paul O'Neill, a New York native of Irish heritage, developed TSO in the late '90’s. A composer, writer and musician, he has been working in the industry since the 1970’s. He played guitar in rock operas "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Hair." O'Neill also worked for Leber-Krebs Inc., a New York management company whose clients include AC/DC, Aerosmith and the New York Dolls. He is an articulate character, who draws inspiration from classical art, a New York City childhood and legendary rock tradition.
O'Neill began his solo project, TSO, with specific ideas in mind: six rock operas, two standard rock records and a Christmas trilogy. The latter, captured the attention of the world, and by 1998, had taken off like wild fire. Under an artist’s development contract with TSO, Atlantic records funded the band’s debut album "Christmas Eve and Other Stories," which went double platinum and featured the hit single “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24.” TSO released the band’s first non holiday rock opera "Beethoven’s Last Night" in 2000 and later released "Night Castle" in 2009. The last of the Christmas trilogy, "The Lost Christmas Eve," was first released in 2004 and now TSO performs the album with a renewed, jaw-dropping live presentation.
The Gazette: Tran-Siberian Orchestra is kicking off the November and December tour of "The Lost Christmas Eve" with more than 30 band members and a massive stage show. What inspires this level of monumental song writing?
Paul O'Neill: First, TSO is musically driven rather than celebrity driven. The goal is to make great art. As a kid, my father took my brother and me to see a famous sculpture by Michelangelo. We waited hours in line and when we finally stood in front of it, I remember being completely impressed. The face conveyed such accurate pain and anguish. Great art is hard to do, but it will make you feel an emotion you’ve never felt before. I wanted TSO to be larger than life and to draw on themes inspired by transformation, redemption and hope.
Gazette: You produced other non-Christmas releases like "Night Castle" and "Beethoven’s Last Night." Why has the Christmas trilogy been so successful?
O'Neill: Over the years I’ve realized the only critic you can’t fool is time. In the end, you’re competing with history. We never intended to tour on the Christmas trilogy for 13 years. It just happened. I think the Christmas theme has blown up because it’s a unique way of experiencing a very old tradition.
Gazette: What initially lead you to write about Christmas?
O'Neill: I have always been fascinated by Christmas. I remember seeing two cabs get in a fender bender in New York as a kid. It was Christmas Eve. It ended incredibly civil. The drivers wished the other a Merry Christmas. Any other day that would not have happened. I remember thinking there was something special about this time of year; something that inspires a kindness and can fix wreckage. “The Lost Christmas Eve” touches on that and how it’s never too late to turn life around.
Gazette: What inspires you to create such a visually stunning show?
O'Neill: My biggest influences include incredible live performances like Pink Floyd, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Queen. I wanted to build on the rock acts I already worshipped. These shows are so monumental. Floyd proved to me there is no such thing as a bad seat. We want the audience to feel like they have never seen anything like it and to get lost. Hopefully, they leave the show awed and a little more inspired to overcome life’s speed bumps.