Trans-Siberian Orchestra roars into Kansas City

The holiday season is traditionally a time to be spent with friends and family, with food, drink, and merriment. The spectacle of music and lights that comes this time of year is often a favorite among others. While some bemoan Baby it’s Cold Outside‘s newly focused attention, or the seeming endless loop of A Christmas Story that seems present this time of year, there is still much to be enjoyed by all. One of the largest, and most successful, spectacles of this caliber is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Often performing 8 shows in 2 days, thanks to two companies, and two daily shows, one only need witness a performance to understand why it has been so successful.

A touring roster of 18 musicians, and another half dozen members of the “local” chapter of any given city bring forth a performance that’s part radio show, part Broadway production, part rock concert, and effortlessly tying everything together, with a spectacular light show that doesn’t overpower the music, or get lost in the mix. In many ways, the stage itself becomes a member of the band. For those who have gone to the show previously, the set list seems relatively unchanged from last year (and by the cheers, it seems that half the house had not been to a TSO performance before).

The Sprint Center housed just under 10,000 attendees for the matinee performance, the day just after Christmas. With such a large roster, and long load in time, many, if not all, the performers and crew spent their Christmas in Kansas City to bring a performance to us. Thankfully, many had their family in attendance – the show must go on.

With such a large production, and a show coming in just under two and a half hours, it would be very easy for people to get lost in the mix. But with multiple solos, both on vocals, and guitars, and even violin, each member is given a chance to shine, and a star; the Trans-Siberian Orchestra truly is an ensemble piece, and no performer leaves anything on stage, yet still manage to deliver another high-energy performance just hours later.

It’s clear that the musicians are genuinely having a great time on stage, interacting with each other, and the audience. Angus Clark jumped from the stage, and played solos in the aisles, while smiling for selfies with people running up to him. Lasers, snow, fire, and levitating platforms…and that’s just the first half! Each Trans-Siberian Orchestra record is a concept album that tells a story through narration, and song. The first set is one of those albums (this year, The Ghosts of Christmas Eve), and the second set is a best of, including popular hits from previous TSO records, and some other surprises, including a Savatage cover or two.

Speaking of fun, vocalist (and a favorite of this site) Jeff Scott Soto came onstage in a Kansas City Chiefs shirt (a safe bet for a KC show), and was met with boos. It was all in good fun, and he redeemed himself with the haters by doing what he does best: rocking out. I’m constantly amazed whenever I see Jeff perform, and he seemed to add a lot of vocal gymnastics to his songs this tour, holding notes for extended periods, and sliding up and down the octaves.

Also of note was John Brink, still a relative newcomer to TSO. When I saw him perform last year, I really felt that he would be a phenomenal Jean Valjean on Broadway…sure enough, he understudied the role. Check out his performance of What Child is This on YouTube.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra really is a show that has something for everyone, and the size of the crowds that are drawn in, and the heavy touring schedule are a testament to its popularity. While popular doesn’t necessarily mean good, the spectacle that is TSO is something that is not to be missed.

Words and photos by Josh Chaikin

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