There are 1,000 ways to describe the all-encompassing experience that is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, so let's dispense with the one thing it is not: The TSO ain’t your grandma’s Christmas music. That is, unless grandma liked to deck the halls with a flamethrower, smoke machine and some good ol’ fashioned indoor fireworks.
It wouldn’t be December in Buffalo without the TSO, and the rockers obliged, dropping in for two nearly-sold out shows at Key Bank Center on Dec. 4. Fans of the group — celebrating 20 years of touring with their high-octane, sensory-overloading production — were treated to more than two hours of vintage TSO with its 2016 offering, “Ghosts of Christmas Eve.”
If it was your first time seeing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra live, you’d have known you were in for a different kind of show from the moment the curtain went up. A multi-tiered stage and five scissor lifts, backed by a massive video wall, multiple rotating lighting truss’ and a four-sided flaming triangle, conjuring up images of the Illuminati, hung suspended from the ceiling in the rear of the arena. And that was just the beginning.
The lights, lasers and general spectacle that the TSO is known for were in full effect from the outset. If you came to be visually mesmerized, you left satisfied. What may surprise people is that beyond that sizzle is a group of incredibly talented musicians and singers. I — and, I suspect, many others — came expecting to be dazzled by the showmanship and left impressed with the talent that graced the stage.
Opening with a Christmas tale narrated beautifully by Bryan Hicks, the TSO offered a dazzling display of pageantry with a mix of traditional music (delivered in a distinctly non-traditional way) that included a stirring rendition of “Joy to the World.”
They also served up their their signature songs — you may not know it by name, but three notes in and you’d recognize “Hall of the Mountain King,” as distinctly TSO. Likewise the Christmas classic, “Carol of the Bells,” which was, without a doubt, the signature of the show. With a pyrotechnic display in sync with the music, the lighting truss rose up and out over the crowd with violinist Roddy Chong playing his heart out high about the crowd.
Just when it seemed as though the show couldn’t get any more surreal, as the band launched into “Christmas Dreams,” cold, wet, white “snow” began to fall from the rafters. It was — at least until the show closed with indoor fireworks — the highlight of the special effects.
Though the larger-than-life stage show may overshadow their vocal talents at times, Russell Allen, Rob Evans and Kayla Reeves each delivered over-the-top performances worthy of headliner status.
Combine two dozen talented musicians and singers, enough pyrotechnics to light up outer space, and a stirring story of Christmas dreams and you’ve got the recipe for an incredible evening of entertainment. If you were lucky enough to hold a ticket to one of the shows, you already know that. If you weren’t, mark your calendar for December 2017 — you won’t want to miss the return of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
“Ghosts of Christmas Eve”
Key Bank Center
Sunday, December 4, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.