The annual Christmas phenomenon known as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is doing their annual Christmas tour, and like all the other tours they have done in the last 17 years, people pack the arenas to see them. The band has gotten so big that not only have they staged two shows in one day, but they also boast having two separate bands playing on either side of the Mississippi River as the demand for the band has increased over the years. Seeing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for the first time, it is easy to see why they are popular this time of year.
Because of the unique set-up in which Trans-Siberian Orchestra operates, the touring line-up that came through Kansas City was Al Pitrelli on guitar and music director, Angus Clark on guitar, keyboards are Vitalij Kuprij and Jane Mangini, Johnny Lee Middleton on bass, new to TSO this year is original Slaughter drummer, Blas Elias, Asha Mevlana on electric violin, with Phillip Brandon as the narrator and the choir of voices provided by the incomparable Jeff Scott Soto, Andrew Ross, and Rosa Larichiutta, among others, as well as help from the Kansas City chapter of the TSO symphony. This year’s TSO featured a good number of performers who were on their first year of the tour, as well as veterans dating back to the beginning. Kansas City always sees people pack the Sprint Center for the TSO shows, and the early show was no different. Also of note, TSO donates $1 of each ticket sold to music related charities in the city in which they’re performing. For the 3:00 PM show, over $12,000 had been donated to the youth symphony of Kansas City.
The set list can be best divided into two parts, the first part primarily dedicated to the Christmas trilogy that they’ve been known for, and the second part is the band playing a less scripted set that still shows off their skills. Their stage show is truly one to behold, as Trans-Siberian Orchestra does not hold back, with lasers, pyro, and the back screens displaying things according to the song that is being played. It’s so grand that the music director Al Pitrelli made it a point to give thanks to the people who put it together towards the end of the show, with a six-hour set up, and over 200 people behind the scenes.
The first half was their version of a Christmas story, as narrator Phillip Brandon smoothly put the songs together with his impeccable way of telling a story while the music adds a twist to some of the more traditional Christmas songs while making them their own. Vocal highlights include Jeff Scott Soto on “Find Our Way Home” and Chloe Lowery on a couple of songs. There were also musical tributes to the band’s founder Paul O’Neill, who had passed away earlier this year.
Every year, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra plays shows around Christmas time, and people flock to them to the point that it is almost a tradition in the same way that people wear ugly Christmas sweaters and fruitcake somehow makes its annual appearance. As long as TSO continues to play as well as they do and put on shows like the one in Kansas City, that tradition will be soon rooted into the human fabric.
Photos by Josh Chaikin
Words by Peter Santellan and Josh Chaikin