Tran-Siberian Orchestra’s show Friday at the Reno Events Center set a holiday tone for me that I never thought was possible through heavy metal/rock opera. All throughout the two-and-a-half-hour concert, I kept thinking to myself that I would never be able to hear “Carol of the Bells” or “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” in the same way again, and it’s a refreshing thought
In terms of music, I was ready for the high energy and upbeat twists on Christmas classics, but being a virgin TSO concert goer, not even hearing about its performances from a colleague could have fully prepared me for the lights, the interesting audiovisual clips, the plumes of fire that I’m sure the audience felt even at the back of the building or the awesome hair-waving on both the guys and gals performing.
The first half of the show breezed through the orchestra’s familiar Christmas songs. “Joy to the World,” “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” and “The Nutcracker” were all charged with visual and musically inspiring displays from laser to soapy snow, with lyrics or without. I thoroughly enjoyed a bit of gospel flavor from outstanding soloists like Jeff Scott Soto, a former Journey vocalist.
I wasn’t worried so much about the overall volume of the show, though I knew I’d have some ringing left over once I returned to the deafening silence of my home. And though friends often tell me I have Superman-like hearing for detecting a cell phone going off three rooms away hidden in a purse, I had some trouble Friday picking out the sound of the violinists, who were exceedingly fun to watch as they ran all over the stage and shredded their bows like crazy. One song that featured a beautiful flute sound was rewarding. The electric guitars, however, dominated the majority of the show, which was fine most of the time and what one would expect at a rock concert.
TSO touched on a few of my personal favorites really well, if briefly. “O Holy Night” was taken to new heights and “Christmas Canon Rock” was just fantastic, if only because I marched as a bride to a classical version of Pachelbel’s beloved song and tried to imagine what it would have been like if I were walk down the aisle to TSO’s rendition. My husband and I both found our heads bobbing and toes tapping to it and to the majority of the concert’s set list.
The second half included a few new songs from the group’s latest CD, “Night Castle.” The repertoire helped to shake things up a bit after its largely faith-based Christmas production.
Normally, I would find some explication and storytelling in between songs a delight, if only to find out where the band has been and who the members are. That does take place in between the first and second half of the show, but the narration seemed to slow the pace a little too much in some places where I was hoping one exciting song would segue immediately into another. Anthony Gaynor has an excellent poetic quality, but I was more excited about the music. It was attention-grabbing, however, after the narrator’s first entrance when he snaps his fingers and a slew of twinkling lights sets the stage for holiday magic.
A highlight, overall, was being able to see how much passion these performers get out of playing their music. They’re the sort where they really don’t need an audience to have that much fun, though the audience, I’m sure, is encouraging.
I would see the show again and to my surprise, so would many of the diverse audience members from grandparents to younger members of the crowd. But next time I’ll consider bringing sunglasses so I won’t have to divert my eyes quite as much.