Trans-Siberian Orchestra live review - Citizens Business Bank Arena, California

Trans-Siberian Orchestra go all-out for live holiday show

A crowd at a prog gig
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

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Two decades ago, an instrumental by theatrical hard rock veterans Savatage was re-released by a different group. The song, Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 1224), had earned some airplay on American radio, but after several mainstream stations made it clear that they wouldn’t play a track by a heavy metal band with a heavy metal name, subterfuge was in order.

Until then, never before had one act’s music been passed off as the work of another in America. Nonetheless, that winter, Christmas Eve… received even more radio attention under its new band moniker, the exotic-sounding Trans-Siberian Orchestra, while the song was also the centrepiece of TSO’s debut album, which would go on to sell millions of copies.

TSO have grown rapidly since, filling arenas annually. But even now, the standout moment of a TSO show remains Christmas Eve…, which receives the loudest and longest cheers during tonight’s two hour show.

With lasers, flames, fireworks and a transforming stage set, a TSO show is as much a production as it is a concert, but it speaks to the power of the group’s dramatic symphonic rock that tonight’s soundtrack isn’t overwhelmed by such special effects. It helps that TSO feature a touring cast of 18. Clearly, there’s strength in numbers.

The first half of tonight’s show sees the band deliver a live interpretation of their home video, The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve, featuring the group’s popular holiday numbers, include Christmas Canon Rock and singer Chloe Lowery’s emotional Music Box Blues.

In Act II, TSO rattle off another dozen songs in rapid succession, including standout instrumentals A Last Illusion (the group’s take on Flight Of The Bumblebee), Requiem The Fifth (their rendition of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony) and The Mountain (an interpretation of In The Hall Of The Mountain King). These three songs blur the lines between classical music and progressive metal so convincingly that you’re not quite sure what to call them – but considering the group’s enigmatic origins, maybe that’s the whole point. What’s in a name anyway?