Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the PPL Center in Allentown December 17, 2022
Last year’s Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) annual tour was an outing like no other, as the band brought its special brand of visually spectacular concerts to audiences across the United States.
At the end of 2020 – a year in which TSO’s Christmas tour could not take place due to COVID – there was particular excitement and appreciation to return to the stage.
The band returns to the PPL Center in Allentown on December 17 for two shows at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
“Missing 2020 certainly made us realize how lucky we are to do what we do,” said Jeff Plate, music director for TSO’s US Eastern Touring Unit.
It was also the toughest outing in TSO’s history, thanks to ongoing CPVOD issues.
“It was filled with anxiety, to say the least, because every morning you would wake up and it was like, ‘OK, is anyone sick? Has anyone- Has he tested positive? What are we going to do? Is the crew there? Are the people in the audience okay?” said Al Pitrelli, music director for the western unit. from TSO’s USA “So it was definitely the most stressful tour we’ve ever done.”
It’s not like TSO hasn’t taken COVID precautions or put contingencies in place in case artists come down with the virus. As Pitrelli noted, the job is to deliver the memorable concert spectacle that fans have come to expect and to make sure any issues aren’t apparent.
“The audience just wants their show. Whatever hurdles we have to overcome to make this happen, that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “So yeah, we had a few people in the bullpen. In a heartbeat, they could be off to a show, or we’d cover each other’s parts on stage. If one of the singers was sick, one of the other singers present would take over the song. Again, the show must go on.
Pitrelli and Plate hope this year’s TSO tour will be more like pre-pandemic outings.
Over its first two decades, TSO’s shows easily became the biggest and most elaborate on holiday tours. This was the whole vision of the group’s founder, Paul O’Neill, who sadly passed away in 2017.
O’Neill’s idea was that TSO would combine a rock band with an orchestra playing concept albums/rock operas with cohesive storylines. Instead of building an image around a singer, guitarist, or bandleader, the ensemble would use multiple singers and a range of instrumentalists, who would remain largely anonymous to listeners.
Many people in the industry wondered if TSO could be financially viable. Taking such a big musical group on the road would be expensive. To accommodate the visual production, TSO had to play arenas early on – something no musical group had done.
Nevertheless, Atlantic Records bought into O’Neill’s vision and signed TSO. The label was rewarded as the lyric-themed trilogy of Christmas albums became a hit and continues to rack up top 10 sales among holiday albums each Christmas season.
The first release was “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” in 1996. Boosted by the hit single “Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24”, it sold three million copies and set the stage for the other two operas holiday rock that make up TSO’s Christmas trilogy: “The Christmas Attic” (1998) and “The Lost Christmas Eve” (2004). Each exceeded two million copies sold.
Additionally, the band released a Christmas EP, “Dreams of Fireflies (On A Christmas Night)” in 2012, and three long non-holiday rock operas: “Beethoven’s Last Night” (2000), “Night Castle” (2009) and “Letters from the Labyrinth” (2015).
The group’s CDs and DVDs have sold over 12 million copies and generated 180 million streams in 2021 alone.
Since the first holiday tour in 1999, TSO has performed to approximately 18 million fans and grossed $725 million.
This year’s show sees TSO perform “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” which is the 2001 concert DVD that combines the most popular songs from “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” and “The Christmas Attic.” With the DVD initially airing on PBS stations, it became one of TSO’s most popular releases.
“The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” will take up most of the first half of the show, followed by a second part that draws on selections from across the TSO catalog. Since many of the most popular songs will be performed as part of “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve”, Pitrelli, Plate and the musicians had room this year for some songs that were not often performed on tour. previous ones.
One thing that Pitrelli and Plate couldn’t talk about is how much bigger and different this year’s visual effects and setting will be than last year.
“You look up and I still feel like a 15-year-old stepping into this arena for the first time,” Pitrelli said. “It really turns you into a teenager. But this time I’m not getting chased by security or the police, so it’s a lot more fun just standing there looking up and saying, “That’s great.”
Alan Sculley is a freelancer for The Morning Call