Trans-Siberian Orchestra 11/18/10
EnergySolutions Arena – Salt Lake City, UT
Words/photos by feliciaevita
Did anybody see the Trib’s assessment of last Thursday’s Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s concert in Salt Lake City? David Burger opined that the almost three-hour TSO show was exhaustingly long and with questionable content at times, most notably with the addition of the Beatles tune “Help.” Burger appeared surprised that a band with the longevity, talent, and reputation of the TSO wouldn’t get their show right. While I share a few of his sentiments, the TSO concert was far from a train wreck.
As a first-time TSO concert-goer, I was wowed by the chromatic laser lights – which were at times as bright as going for an eye exam – synchronized with the thunderous music that vibrated through every seat in the ESA. And yet, the musicians didn’t play second fiddle to the stage effects. One of my first notes was that everyone should see this concert. The energy of millions of lights and talented TSO electric guitarists and violinistas made this fall’s Aussie Pink Floyd concert seem comparatively lifeless. After hearing “Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony,” near the opening, my friend and I listened for and heard trademark rock-i-fied Christmas carols early in the program … “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “A Mad Russian Christmas,” and “Christmas in Sarajevo.”
TSO is really two performing companies, TSO East and TSO West. Like every major band I have seen this year, TSO’s program is choreographed (“rock-by-the-numbers” as Burger said) because of the light show designed to maximize the impact of the musical lineup. And in reality, even country cowboy singers Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley have stage productions choreographed to accommodate video, a strategy which downplays the crowd interaction and spontaneity.
Besides the lights-music-video combination, consider that stage pyrotechnics just might mandate a little choreography. Just ask Metallica’s James Hetfield, who got second and third degree burns on his hand, arm, and face, when he and his guitar collided with fireworks on the stage during a concert. Ouch.
TSO West’s musicians, including the Salt Lake Strings, were superb. Beethoven could have scarcely dreamed of an electric guitar playing beside his beloved violin. The racing keyboardists kept every tempo and volume alive during the show. And the vocalists, for the most part, had Broadway-quality voices. (Yes, I have been to Broadway, in fact as recently as this year, fyi.)
Besides the fireworks, lasers, flames, fog, and simulated snow, the show featured two cat walks suspended over the VIP seats. Violinists and electric guitar players dashed to the edge of the walks and played to the mid-section crowds. The heat of the flames on stage permeated the arena. For once, I was glad not to be amongst those under the suspension action or near the made-for-stage blow torches, and yet I was equally pleased that I hadn’t opted for the cheap seats.
The endurance drill in the middle of the program sapped those next to us and a legion of others who hiked up the stairs to the exits about two hours into the show. As Burger mentioned, the Christmas-angel-in-the-bar diatribes from the narrator and the songs that didn’t fit to the theme of the program were, in a word, annoying. “Can you believe how many people are leaving?” my friend commented. We were determined to stay in our lower bowl seats to the bitter end, even though she was very ill with a cold.
I’d printed out the set list before the concert and knew that in staying we’d be rewarded by hearing “Christmas Canon Rock,” “Siberian Sleigh Ride,” and “The Nutcracker.” And rewarded we were, for the music and winter scenes were exceptional. We walked out of the ESA well after 11 pm, over-tired but glad for the experience, sort of like Christmas itself.
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is no small operation. We saw six buses and 11 semi trucks parked outside. After the concert, I found myself wondering what their dry ice bill was and what they’re going to do if Christmas ever goes out of style.
And a little footnote to the ESA: when I entered the arena and took my seat, I thought perhaps my eyes were going bad. In reality, it was smoky haze left from the 4 pm show. Maybe a little look-see and re-work on the ventilation is in order???