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Concert Reviews:
TSO makes, shares memories at Little Caesars

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Tuesday, December 26, 2017

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DETROIT -- Trans-Siberian Orchestra Siberian Orchestra started its evening show on Saturday, Dec. 23, at Little Caesars Arena with a little more resonance than some of the troupe's previous 19 holiday-time stops in the metro area.

Opening with "Time And Distance (The Dash)" from 2015's "Letters From The Labyrinth" album, lyrics such as "time refines us/Death resigns us" and "All these questions of existence/We pursue with such existence" made subtle reference to the significant losses TSO sustained during the year -- of bassist David Zablidowsky, who was killed in a traffic accident during July, and most particularly of group founder Paul O'Neill, who passed away three months prior.

That meant the stakes were somewhat higher this time around for TSO and its annual visit, a dazzling, family-friendly spectacle that's become a dependable seasonal staple. The good news is that TSO delivered once again, with a show that could arguably be considered the group's best yet.

The two-and-a-half-hour concert wrapped everything TSO audiences know and love into a package of pyrotechnics, lasers, vivid LED visuals, special effects (including enough faux snowflakes to merit a Winter Advisory), hair-throwing musical heroics and staging that had the nine singers and seven musicians performing on all manner of hydraulic lifts, lighting rigs and even a cube at the back of the arena floor. Nearly every song packed the firepower of most other acts' grand finale and certainly matched the gleefully over-the-top bombast of the 27 songs, many of them rocked-up Christmas or classical music favorites that included The Ghosts of Christmas Eve narrative.

There were tributes to both Zablidowsky and O'Neill -- the latter via a moving, stripped-down rendition of "The Safest Way Into Tomorrow" accompanied by a visual of a candle surrounded by O'Neill's trademark shades, gloves and sheet music. And when storyteller Bryan Hicks intoned the final words of The Ghosts..., "and it's good that we remember," he blew a gentle kiss skyward, in salute to the TSO visionary.

Overall, however, the night was far more celebratory than mournful and flowed at and energetic pace that let up only to provide vocal showcases for Kayla Reeves, Rob Evan and their fellow singers. Mostly, however, the show was set up for the instrumentalists -- and primarily violinist Roddy Chong and guitarists Chris Caffery and Joel Hoekstra -- to deliver their brand of goods on epics such as "Winter Palace," "Christmas Canon Rock," "Siberian Sleight Ride," the Tchaikovsky-quoting "A Mad Russian's Christmas" and the Mussorgsky-adaptation "The Mountain." Their fleet-fingered virtuosity was as explosive as any of the flames or other pyrotechnics that blasted nearly non-stop throughout the night.

It all did the TSO's, and O'Neill's, legacy proud, adding another big night to two decades of holiday season memories.

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