Last week Long and I found ourselves on the sidewalk outside the Princess of Wales Theatre asking each other “What the #$^&*$ was THAT?” while shaking our heads in sorrow after watching the disaster that Mirvish had just offered up. This week I found myself asking the same question, only this times it was gasped out between peals of laughter during the Trans Siberian Orchestra performance at the ACC.
Christmas season is looming upon us and those that know me know it is not one that I relish. I frankly hate it, and the seed of my resentment is planted the moment the Christmas carols start playing at the grocery store and the Yule displays start popping up, usually but moments after the Hallowe’en items are ripped off the shelves. I am a 100% dyed in the wool Scrooge, and Long wears Christmas happy pants for about two months solid so it promises to be an interesting series of contrasts for the next little while. She has been suggesting some Xmas themed stuff (with no little amount of trepidation) and I have vowed to at least TRY not to be a miserable Grinch for the rest of the season. It was she who recommends the TSO and I agreed to give it a shot.
I have never seen the group before and idly considered doing a little research before the event, but did not bother and I am certainly glad I didn’t. I had no idea what to expect beyond a vague notion that we would be hearing some christmas carols in a classical music form (the word “orchestra” would suggest such a thing) but when a collection of long haired metal dudes in black Sgt Pepper jackets came out and assumed the classic rocker stance armed with electric guitars and a crazy violin I knew I needed to throw my expectations to the wind.
The show was titled “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” and the first half featured a story about a young female runaway who takes refuge in an abandoned theatre on Christmas Eve, and falls in to a dream world led by a benevolent ghostly older man which frankly seemed kind of creepy – so much so that one verse actually talked about how this all could seem really creepy but it wasn’t so just let it go. The graphics were very reminiscent of a high end video game, and for the first time the size of the ACC made sense. I had been ambivalent about it (originally I thought the show was at the Sony Centre) The ACC is not known for its acoustics, people in sports venues generally don’t have the same sense of gravity as in a traditional theatre and tend to talk more, and there was a prevailing scent of beer barf. I thought the show might get lost in the massive arena but the graphics played across a huge screen, the performers used every inch of the stage and there was an incredible light and pyro show.
The was a core band of guitars, bass, drums and keyboard joined by a manic electric violin player, a small string section tucked in the back, and five female and five male back up singers a few of whom took solos.
This was one of the tightest groups I have ever seen, and the singers had basic but perfectly coordinated moves down pat.
The rock band cruised the whole stage and at several points were lifted above the crowd on a series of hydraulic risers.
The music was loosely based on classic Christmas carols, but the tone was decidedly metal, with a feel that ranged from Def Leppard married to the pyro of Kiss, the volume of Motley Crue and the last song felt a little like Guns N Roses “Patience”, plus some Mariah Carey vocals from one of the back up singers for two songs. It was epic, hilarious, and I couldn’t stop laughing. This went beyond Christmas – this was like being in a live version of Tron meets Monsters of Rock.
The story arc of the show ended after an hour, and both Long and I thought they would wrap up but they announced they were only half way through. We stayed for a couple of extra songs but frankly the first act was brilliant and the second seemed like a typical rock show so we bailed while our enthusiasm was high and we could beat the crowds out. We emerged delighted and a little deaf.
The Trans Siberian Orchestra was one of the most entertaining and unique experiences I have had in a while. If this is Christmas, there may be hope for me yet.