Concert Review: Trans-Siberian Orchestra, December 3, Air Canada Centre


I will readily admit that on any given day throughout most of the year, I can be fairly cynical and cold-hearted about a lot of things, rolling my eyes derisively and scoffing at anything that I see as too cheesy or contrived. Yet come Christmastime, I start to see everything through a holiday inspired filter of good cheer and fun times that makes even the corniest Hallmark holiday movie or the latest schmaltzy pop star’s Christmas album not only tolerable, but kind of enjoyable. Soon enough I’m running down the street in a manic state wishing a Merry Christmas to everyone and everything I see, just like George Bailey. With that in mind, I figured maybe it was time to give in and check out the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, one of the biggest acts on the seemingly still quite lucrative holiday music market. To make an analogy to another holiday tradition  (eating copious amounts of food) Trans Siberian Orchestra are kind of like a turducken – totally over the top and kind of ridiculous, but something you still want to experience at least once, just to say you did. It might be overrated, it might just be a novelty, it might not be your thing at all, but you want to at least try it once.

With their music falling somewhere between metal, prog rock and musical theatre, TSO does seem like a longshot for reaching mainstream success, yet here they are, filling arenas and stadiums year after year.  I have to admit, the group is full of talented musicians who play enthusiastically and several of their songs were quite enjoyable, but there was a certain corniness about some of their performance that couldn’t even be saved by looking at it all through Christmas cheer-coloured glasses. Chief among these was the jazzy/bluesy number they did about the Three Wise Men (“The Three Kings And I”). It was the worst. It left me with the impression that the singer on that one was the musical equivalent of Guy Fieri. He did redeem himself on later songs and even in that same number when they launched into a bit of Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” He certainly has a decent voice, but that song just didn’t do anything for me. Well, nothing good anyways.

The first half of TSO’s show was a full performance of their 1998 album The Christmas Attic, which is basically a concept album about a girl finding and reading a bunch of letters she found in an attic on Christmas Eve. This story was narrated by the band’s storyteller, Bryan Hicks. I can’t help but  wonder a little bit about this guy. Is he some failed Shakespearean actor who’s settled for being the one who reads the interstitial bits for a Christmas-metal band or is he pretty stoked to have this job? Whatever, I’m sure he gets paid well and most of the people seemed to be pretty into it, especially one guy near me who threw out the occasional “Whoo!” every now and then during one of Hicks’ recitations.

After the band finished their production of The Christmas Attic, the second half of their set took on much more of a straight up rock show atmosphere than the pseudo musical theatre vibe of the first half. The light show got more intense, pyro made its entry into the stage show, and the guitar solos got more frequent and frenetic. Despite some of the misgivings I have about their show, it’s hard to hate too much on something that features that much pyro and lasers alongside dueling violin and guitar solos. Anyone up for some turducken?

Posted on by Paul in Concerts