Family traditions are part of what comes with the Christmas season: family dinners, gift exchanges, and Christmas Eve services are just a few that readily come to mind. Although many people share the same traditions, every once in a while they need to be shaken up to keep things fresh.
Trans Siberian Orchestra's annual Christmas tour has become a family tradition -- a time for the family to get away and escape the stress of the season and celebrate together. That's actually something that TSO creator and co-founder, Paul O'Neill, was looking forward to with the group as he stressed in past interviews that the group consciously made an effort to keep tickets prices under control and make sure there were seats available in every price range, so that people from all walks of life could bring their families and enjoy the show.
After over a dozen years on the road, however, it was time for a change. Granted, every year the production got its little tweaks: a change in the lighting, small alterations to the set list, and minor changes in the theatrics. For thirteen years, however, the band has built its production around its album Christmas Eve and Other Stories and added additional tracks from its other albums.
When the current TSO tour comes to town touting an "all new" production this year, it's not talking about simple changes as in years past. This year the group has shed the old production and is building its show around its 2004 album, The Lost Christmas Eve. True, most fans have already heard a few of these songs on past tours: "Faith Noel," in particular, has been a staple in evenings past. With this winter's tour, the group has completely changed its production to feature The Lost Christmas Eve in its entirety, changing the night's music and even some of its musicians and singers, in order to keep things fresh and exciting -- and no less dramatic or over the top.
When discussing the current tour with guitarist and co-founder, Al Pitrelli, recently, he said that "it's still over the top and everything you expect from Trans Siberian, but this year we've got changes to the story and have even changed some of the singers so everything is new and fresh."
"It's an all new story. This year we're playing The Lost Christmas Eve -- so it's different, but it's still really moving and touching," he added.
"It's kind of terrifying," Pitrelli admitted. "After 13 years of touring, Paul [O'Neill] was like, 'Let's do something new!' so we've changed things up. At this point we just have to hope all goes well, but the reviews have all been overwhelmingly positive."
Although the set list and story line have changed dramatically this year, after touring for thirteen years, the group has earned the trust and respect of its fans. And with that much history built up behind a stellar seasonal presentation, fans know that TSO won't let them down, even if the night's production changes.
"This band is like one of my children," Pitrelli said. "I've spent seventeen years watching it grow and I'm proud of it, but on occasion, you want to give it a little kick in the pants and I think that's what we've done."
Of course, TSO has been evolving, stepping out from simply being a seasonal band over the past few years and touring in the spring behind Beethoven's Last Night. This tour also saw TSO transition from arenas to smaller theater venues, including a stop at The Joint -- 777 W. Cherokee St., Catoosa -- last March.
Although the group is known for its spectacular arena productions, O'Neill had discussed the band's willingness to scale down its productions to play smaller markets and smaller venues before that spring's visit. Aside from the scale of production, however, theaters seem even more appropriate for TSO, especially considering the theatrical nature of its music.
When asked about the show at The Joint and the spring tour in general, Pitrelli said, "It was the perfect venue. Theaters are just so much more intimate and appropriate, especially for Beethoven's Last Night. And in Europe, we were going in and playing in these historic theaters where Beethoven probably actually played. All I could think was 'If these walls could speak ...'"
Trans Siberian Orchestra isn't just bringing a new production to town, however. On Oct. 30, the group also released a new five song EP, Dreams of Fireflies (on a Christmas Night). When asked about the new EP and if it was a matter of wanting to put something new out to keep the fans' attention, Pitrelli admitted, "That's partly it."
"Paul is always about new music," he continued. "We've been recording the past two years between tours and when we finished the last spring tour, we came in to pick up where we left off and a couple of songs just took on a life of their own. Paul wanted to record and release a song for the winter tour and we said 'How about this song as well -- we've been playing it and it's been going over really well. Plus, we had this unfinished song and then we recorded 'Someday,' so we were like, 'How about making it an EP?'"
As a result, TSO fans have plenty to look forward to with new music at their fingertips and a whole new Christmas concert to look forward to. Sure, things have changed a bit, but sometimes our Christmas traditions need to be shaken up and given a new life. You can always count on Trans Siberian Orchestra to put a new twist on Christmas and this year the group has gone the extra mile to freshen things up even more.
As much fun as it is for the fans, you can tell that the show is just as much fun for the band -- which is part of what makes a TSO show so impressive. The energy and camaraderie between the band members translates to its chemistry with the audience. That's what makes it so easy to believe when Pitrelli says, "When it's not fun anymore, I'll walk away, but I'm having the time of my life. Even after the career I've had, this is the most fun I've ever had."
Make sure to catch Trans Siberian Orchestra when the group brings its all new production for The Lost Christmas Eve to BOK Center -- 200 S. Denver Ave. -- this Thursday night, Dec. 6. Doors open at 6:30pm. If you haven't made TSO part of your Christmas tradition, now is the time to shake things up and join those who look forward to the band's annual visit. Tickets are still available with prices ranging from $32 to $72.50.
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