The Trans-Siberian Orchestra
NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Christmas Eve & Other Stories Tour
December 20, 2019
Celebrating its twentieth year on the road, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra brightened the lives of the sold-out Nassau Coliseum crowd with a Christmas spectacular that warmed even the most hardened heart in attendance. Conceived by Paul O’Neill, TSO, as it is affectionately known, has, over the years, played to audiences well in excess of 100 million fans. The group has played in over eighty cities and has been so successful that there are two different touring troops—an east coast outfit and a west coast ensemble. In addition to touring the country and bringing joy to its fans, TSO also donates $1 from every ticket sale to a local charity in each city they play.
The group was founded in 1996 by O’Neill, whose idea was to marry classical and rock music. He loved the music of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Queen and Yes (and they way that these bands blended orchestral arrangements with a rock esthetic). He also adored the soaring vocal styling of the Temptations, the Four Tops and groups of their ilk. O'Neill recruited Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli and keyboardist and co-producer Robert Kinkel to form the core of the project. His original concept was to create a number of rock operas, a Christmas trilogy and some additional regular albums.
Over the length of its career, the band has sold over ten million albums and CDs. TSO's debut album, Christmas Eve and Other Stories (Lava/Atlantic, 1996), was to be the first installment of a Christmas themes trilogy. In 1998, the band released the second part of the trilogy, The Christmas Attic (Lava/Atlantic). The album featured “Christmas Canon,” a take on Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D major. The tune included lyrics and new melodies. The final installment of the trilogy, The Lost Christmas Eve (Lava/Atlantic), was released in 2004. In only five weeks following its release, the album received a Gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Other TSO released include: Beethoven's Last Night (Warner Music Group, 2000), a rock opera that tells the fictional story of Ludwig van Beethoven's last night on earth and what happens when Mephistopheles comes to collect his soul; Night Castle (Lava Records, 2009); Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night) EP (Lava Records, 2012) and group's sixth album Letters From The Labrynth (Republic Records, 2015), which is not a rock opera. Letters From The Labyrinth is a collection of songs on various subjects including bullying, banking, and the Berlin Wall. It was also the last to feature TSO founder O'Neill before his passing in April 2017.
On this evening in Uniondale, NY the crowd was a mixed bag comprised of members of the Greatest Generation, a large number of Tweens, Millennials, Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers and wide-eyed children. The multi-generational audience filled the sold-out the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the venue, which since its renovation, has added the NYCB Live moniker thus causing it to have a name that takes longer to type or say than it does to watch the average sitcom.
The concert, scheduled on the Friday before Christmas, featured a number of audience members decked out in their finest holiday sweaters—some even wore special necklaces that featured blinking Christmas lights. As the crowd filtered into the arena, it was greeted with a huge stage set-up for the multi-media concert extravaganza. The performance began at just after 8pm and featured lasers, high-tech pyrotechnics, smoke, fire and a fantastic light show and a multi-media experience that that appeared to be three-dimensional. Various scenes and settings were projected on a huge high-definition screen behind the band and the moving platforms from which it performed.
This version of the TSO featured Narrator Bryan Hicks, Musical Director, Derek Wieland (keyboards), Chris Caffery (guitar), Joel Hoekstra (guitar), Jeff Plate (drums), Mee Eun Kim (keyboards), Tony Dickinson (bass) and Roddy Chong (violin) and a string section comprised of “local” musicians. The core band was augmented by vocalists: Russell Allen, Robin Borneman, Dustin Brayley, Erika Jerry, Caleb Johnson, Lisa Lavie, Georgia Napolitano, Natalya Rose Piette, Kayla Reeves and Zachary Stevens.
The performance which lasted for well over two hours opened with the charming and lovely “Who I Am,” the amazing “An Angel Came Down” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” which segued into “O Holy Night.” Highlights of the concert included “Prince Of Peace,” “First Snow,” “A Mad Russian's Christmas,” “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24),” “Old City Bar,” “This Christmas Day” and “An Angel Returned.” Other performances of note were “Handful of Rain,” Wizards In Winter” and “Can You Hear Me Now.” The show ended with powerful versions of “Believe,” “Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness),” “Requiem (The Fifth)” and the reprise from “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24).”
These joyous performances brought smiles to the faces of each and every member of the audience. Following the bows, the lights came up and the still smiling and cheerful audience members made their way to the Meet & Greet at the merchandise stand and/or the parking lot. As a difficult year comes to a close, it was a sight to behold as the crowd members seemed to be refreshed and energized (if only for this evening) because the Trans-Siberian Orchestra was able to deliver everything that makes the Holiday Season, the time of peace and good tidings toward all.
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon