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Concert Reviews:
New material freshens TSO show at The Palace

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Wednesday, December 30, 2015

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AUBURN HILLS -- In "What Child Is This?," Trans-Siberian Orchestra singer Rob Evan asks, "Tell me how many times can this story be told?"

As many times as TSO wants to tell it is what the fans who nearly packed two shows on Tuesday, Dec. 29, at The Palace would answer.

With its unapologetically bombastic repertoire and special effects-laden shows, TSO has become a nearly bulletproof holiday tradition, armed with three Christmas-themed rock operas and a deserved reputation for enormously entertaining over-the-top theatrics. Who needs Santa's sleigh, after all, when you've got lasers, pyrotechnics, a generous amount of "snow" falling from the rafters and musicians soaring over the crowd on hydraulic lifts?

It's a winning formula, but to its credit TSO always comes with something new -- and Tuesday was no exception. The big hook was a new contraption by the sound board, a pyramid-shaped, fire-spewing structure that brought the show a little closer to the back part of the arena, especially when violinist Roddy Chong played there during the first of two renditions of the hit "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24). But it was a kind of philosophical sea change that gave Tuesday's shows a fresh feel from its predecessors.

This has, in fact, been a year of change for TSO. Its sixth album -- November's "Letters From the Labyrinth" -- is the troupe's first non-rock opera. Fitting that, the two-hour and 20-minute spectacle did not recreate one of the Christmas albums but was cast as "The Ghosts of Christmas Eve," a narrated tale about a runaway who finds her way home (a happy ending -- THERE'S a shock) that mixes material from all the albums, from "The Lost Christmas Eve" to the majestic "O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night" medley through the bluesy "Good King Joy" and Evan's showstopping "What Child Is This?" The Yule fun didn't stop with "This Christmas Day," either, as the dynamic "Wizards in Winter" and Tchaikovsky-quoting "A Mad Russian's Christmas" followed after the story wrapped.

The "Labyrinth" material gave the show a jolt of new energy, too. TSO kicked the night off with "Time and Distance (The Dash)," while the concert's second half featured the full-throttle instrumental "Prometheus" and the vocal pieces "Forget About the Blame," "Not The Same" and "The Night Conceives" all in a row, showcasing singers Robin Broneman and Kayla Reeves.

TSO sampled from its other non-Christmas albums ("Beethoven's Last Night," "Night Castle") and even pulled a track, "Winter Palace"," from the "Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)" EP -- a full stocking and then some, in other words. And it all went down as easy as good egg nog on Tuesday. Evan may sing that "After all of these years it should all sound so old," but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who felt that way at The Palace.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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