I am sure that many of you know what the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is and what they are all about. Making Christmas songs rock. Now, this initially seems like a pretty difficult task, one which I thought, in my limited exposure to Trans-Siberian, that they had managed to pull off. They go on a yearly tour around Christmas time, and Philadelphia was lucky enough to be pretty early on the list, just early enough to get your christmas music in before Thanksgiving (woo hoo!). Kari wanted to see them, and I thought it could be good, so I bought 2 tickets and was genuinely excited to go. The day of the concert arrives, and after driving to the Wachovia Center (I wont even say how much I paid for tickets and parking) we walk across the lot and through the crowd adorned in christmas hats and reindeer antlers I realize that I didnt really think about this at all. Did I really do all of this for Christmas music? In general I dont even like christmas music, let alone in the middle of November. I try to keep my hopes up as we take our seats, Kari and I entertained with people watching in the very diverse crowd. The people around us range from 3 to 172 years old and we have fun just observing while Ricky from Better Off Dead (great movie btw) goes up and down the stairs multiple times looking for his seat. The clamor of the crowd is full of excitement as the stage lights up and the emcee walks up on stage to a grateful roar of applause. We are told how the night is going to unfold, with a narrator telling us a christmas story interjected with the rockin Trans Siberian Orchestra. Sweet, lets do this. The narrator comes on, an old black man with a weathered tone and an audible grin, and sets the scene of some stranger going into a bar on a cold winter night. TSO starts into their first song, starting quiet and then... getting louder... and... and... and... oh... thats as loud as it gets. I thought the first two songs were some sort of joke before the concert would actually begin and they were going to wow us with their incredible sound system, but that never happened. Kari and I could carry out a conversation in normal speaking voices for the entire concert, babies 5 rows behind us were drowning out the music when they cried (cant blame them, I was pretty upset too), it was pathetic.
The rest of the concert/story played out with the man in the bar befriending a santa like character that sat by him and following the story that said santa man told. He would tell part of the story, I don't even remember what it was about now, and the last word in a section would be snow, so they would break into "Let It Snow" TSO style. Or something like that. The songs all ended up being the some over done mediocre music played by a bunch of showboating guitar heros headbanging with their long flowing hair, and the rockin violinist doing the same bend over and headbang for 4 seconds then fling hair back and run/dance for 10 seconds, all while "playing" the violin, often over her head or behind her back. The only people with hair less than a foot long on stage were the actual string section, which turned out to be a minor after thought in the concert. Yes, the string section, in the "TSOrchestra", was hardly even acknowledged, they went around to all the guitarists, narrator, pianists, back up singers, lead violinist, all by name and listing accomplishments, pause for applause for each, and then oh, ya, and the 5 members of phillys local orchestra in the dark corner in the back of the stage.
To make up for the less than exciting music, they had the previously mentioned guitar heros and violinist flailing on stage, but also featured dancing backup singers which were also a sad attempt at eye candy, and the most impressive part of the show which was the laser and light display (An interesting side note- they aimed the high powered lasers at the small sections between the sections where nobody would be blinded by them) and the pyrotechnics. The dancers ended up being an exciting repetition of- swing right arm down, swing left arm down, swing right arm out, swing left arm out, even when they were in the lime light center stage. Every song was the same desperate attempts at excitement, and for me just about every attempt was in vain, there were a couple songs that were genuinely exciting, like their best known rendition of Carol of the Bells, complete with fire shooting up with the beat, as well as the demonic sounding O' Fortuna with the entire auditorium lit up with red flames, both real and videos on every screen available. If the entire concert was carried out with the bravado of these few songs, I would have gotten more than I expected, but the few good bits were interlaced with an over hyped plethora of power chords, terrible acoustic originals from the creator of the TSO that put you to sleep (more than one with a Pachelbelian tune), ridiculous stunts (like the mini stage set up in the middle of the audience they were on for 10 minutes and it lifted up into the air and then sat back down)and a sad attempt at a story to give meaning to the whole thing. I think the show was summed up quite well by the character in the story when the old man had finished relating his fantastical tale (whatever it was). The old man asked "Well, did my story entertain you?" and after this story which fueled the whole show and they tried to inject with such excitement, you were expecting the character to say how great and entertaining the story was, however the response came... "It had its charms" and this is how the story was closed. So, was it worth the ticket price? Did it get me into the christmas spirit like it promised it would? Did the concert wow me with its rocking christmas tunes?... It had its charms.