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Concert Reviews:
TSO captures the holiday spirit, explosively, at Little Caesars Arena

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

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2018

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DETROIT -- In its rendition of William Chatterton Dix's "What Child is This?" Trans-Siberian Orchestra asks a salient question -- "Tell me how many times can this story be told?/After all these years it should all sound so old."

The answer, as evidenced by Saturday's, Dec. 29, matinee performance at Little Caesars Arena, is it can go on as long as TSO and its fans want. And that appetite doesn't appear to be ebbing any time soon.

In its 20th year of touring, TSO manages to keep things from getting stale -- even the oft-repeated "The Ghosts of Christmas Eve" tale -- by keeping its unapologetic pomp-rock spectacle fresh and surprising each time out. Saturday's two shows were filled with new visual tricks or new deployments of familiar elements, with plenty of pyrotechnics, lasers, video projections and other special effects, including faux snow that fell from the light rig during several songs. The standard TSO song remained something akin to the finale of a Fourth of July fireworks show, and the ones that went above and beyond -- well, pushed the show to new visual heights.

There were also several culminations during the course of the two-and-a-half hour, 25-song performance. The first of two "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)" found guitarist Chris Caffery and violinist Roddy Chong airborne on two large metallic arms at the rear of the arena, with a flaming TSO logo between them. Four musicians flew, at both sides of the arena during "Tracers" -- which opened with a bit of Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" -- while "Carmina Burana" was decked out with enough pyrotechnics to stage a war movie.

TSO offered musical delights as well, from a company of 14 musicians (including seven local string players) and 10 singers. The troupe's instrumental firepower fueled performances of "Winter Palace," "A Mad Russian's Christmas" and "Wizards in Winter," along with mash-ups of electrified Christmas carols, all fortified with solos by Caffery, Ray and Whitesnake/Cher guitarist Joel Hoekstra. "American Idol" champ Caleb Johnson, in his first tour with TSO, showed off his pipes on "Three Kings and I" while Dustin Brayley elevated "What Child is This?" and Kayla Reeves delivered "Someday" as a tribute to TSO's late founder and creative visionary Paul O'Neill, who passed away during 2017.

And the suite-like "Chance" from TSO forebear Savatage, sung by that group's Zak Stevens, was a welcome addition, particularly for longtime fans.

TSO is reportedly have its second best box office year ever, a testament to the quality and sheer entertainment value that brings fans back year-in and out. The story, it seems, is in safe hands to be told many more times for the foreseeable future.

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