By Carl Begai
In North America the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has become as traditional at Christmas as Santa Claus, coloured lights and holiday parking. Even if you’ve never attended one of their seasonal shows – which usually hits a city near you anywhere from November through January – you’ve definitely heard of them, as the TSO rock opera format appeals to people from all walks of life, to everyone from children to the elderly. Plain and simple, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has proven for well over a decade that you don’t need to be metal to ride this ride, regardless of the outfit’s Savatage-rooted history.
Producer/composer Paul O’Neill is known for pushing the envelope with every project he devises. It was his collaborative efforts with Savatage frontman Jon Oliva in the late ’80s, in fact, that slowly but surely transformed the legendary metal band into something much more theatrical in nature, which eventually spawned the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And while TSO established itself as a Christmas-themed project when it launched in 1996, O’Neill got rid of the sleigh in 2000 for Beethoven’s Last Night, an album telling the fictitious tale of legendary composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s last night alive. TSO finally toured for the album in North America in 2010, went to Europe the following year, and 2012 sees the band on the road again, this time supporting a fully narrated re-release of Beethoven’s Last Night.
Guitarist Chris Caffery, a long time member of Savatage and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, offered his views on the current Beethoven’s Last Night tour versus the annual winter shows during some rare and fleeting post-soundcheck downtime:
“It’s a very different vibe. The winter tour has the holiday and runaway theme to the story line, the music marries that story. This tour is the complete Beethoven’s Last Night album, and it’s not like the winter show isn’t a rock concert, but the Beethoven show has a darker feel because of the story and the theme. Beethoven is battling the devil to save his soul and his music, it’s a pretty intense story. For me personally it feels more like I’m performing a rock concert because of the way the songs and the album is structured. It’s a little bit more to where my roots were when I performed growing up. I’ve been on stage playing a heavy style of progressive and hard rock music since I was a kid. So the songs like ‘Misery’ are a lot similar to my roots. I think people really enjoy it because in a lot of these cities we’re giving them something they’ve never seen live before. Everybody that comes to see the show tells us they enjoy it as much as anything they’ve seen by us before.”
This seems to be the case even though the Trans-Siberian Orchestra hit the road for Beethoven’s Last Night in March, barely three months after the Christmas tour wrapped up. It’s another full-blown O’Neill audio-visual spectacle, but the numbers indicate that the fans are far from being TSO-ed out.
“It’s pretty crazy,” says Caffery, “because we’re getting a tremendous number of people on this tour that come out and say they’ve never seen TSO before. We’re doing a lot of different markets on this tour that we didn’t do last year. The winter show is so huge that some of the buildings can’t even hold the weight of the lights and gear we have. With this tour we have the opportunity to go to some of the smaller cities to the areas that we couldn’t fit the winter shows in. We’re getting into places where we do find it makes a difference for people that have to drive for over an hour to get to a show. If the show is only 20 minutes away, the people that couldn’t come out to see us before are coming out now.”
“There are a lot of reasons why this Beethoven tour is really exciting for us, and I think that’s one of the biggest because we get out there to see people that haven’t seen us once in out 16 year history. It’s nice to know people aren’t TSO-ed out.”
Go to this location for the complete interview.
Photo by Bob Carey. Used with kind permission of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.