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TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA----Live show review--Nov. 28, 2015. Manchester, NH. USA

      Forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday the real Christmas kick off occurred this past Saturday night at The Verizon Center in Manchester NH when the Trans Siberian Orchestra rolled into town.

     Conceived by renowned composer and producer Paul O’ Neill and featuring only the best of the best  musicians and singers, lead by Savatage guitarist Chris Caffery The Trans Siberian Orchestra show is a tour de force of light, sound, and story telling that has to be seen to be believed.

     This years show featured their 2004 album The Ghost of Christmas Eve played in it’s entirety along with numbers from their recently released Letters From The Labyrinth, their first new release in seven years !!

     The stage was a multi level set up with drummer Jeff Plate, keyboardist, Mee Eun Kim and a string section featuring New England area musicians occupying the top section while a constantly rotating cast of guitarists and singers utilized the lower portion along with the two side risers. Behind everyone was a huge bank of screens that projected a constant barrage of scenes and pictures that gave the entire arena a movie theatre type style of presentation. With 29 songs along with performer introductions the show ran two and half hours with never a dull moment.

    As the red curtain rose the band opened with the first song from Letters From The Labyrinth  - Time And Distance – The screens came alive in black and white images to make the viewer look as if they were being transported into a medieval castle, segued into stars, the cosmos and fireworks as the back ground singers gave a choir like treatment to the vocals over a crescendo of keyboards and drums.

    Duel keyboards from Kim and Derek Weiland intro’s the next piece Winter Palace as snow started falling on the screens, Flames on the upper riser of the stage gave a nice fire and ice effect to an amazing piece of music. Clad in long black coats, pants, and white shirts the players looked resplendent as they all made their entrance onto the stage.

    Purple and white lights bathed the arena as vocalist Dustin Brayley came center stage to kick things off for the playing of The Lost Christmas Eve title track. Snow makers erupted in the rafters over both the audience and the stage during the first part while white lasers crackled to life for the first time during the first of many amazing guitar solos this one performed by Caffery.

    A cheer from the audience accompanied the arrival of storyteller Brian Hicks as his baritone narration is an integral part of every TSO show. Anyone with the DVD version of The Ghost Of Christmas Eve knew the movie that now started showing on the background screens. The tale of a young girl in an abandoned theater far from home and trying to find her way back,.

    The familiar keyboard intro to The Ghost Of Christmas Eve opening medley of O Come All Ye Faithful / O Holy Night got things going in fine fashion. Caffery and new guitarist Bill Hudon along with violinist Roddy Chong were reverent and as true to the original spirit intended to these songs as could be.

    Vocalist Russel Allen was his usual jovial self in hat and shades during Good King Joy while Zak Stevens making his TSO debut gave a Ronnie James Dio treatment to Christmas Dreams  all the while making eye contact and reaching out to  audience members in the first few rows. Two staples of all TSO shows, Christmas Eve/ Sarejevo and Christmas Canon were given the full treatment. Violinist Chong and Caffery made their way to a riser/ pyramid shaped stage in the back of the arena,  Chong’s white violin flashing all the way while Caffery with his long blonde hair trailing him strolled thru the audience to and from the stage. A quartet of female voices led by Georgia Napolitiano clad in long black skirts perfectly placed at center stage gave a flawless interpretation to Christmas Canon. Blue lights hued the stage as Rob Evan gave an amazing version to What Child Is This, then it was Lisa Lavie standing in a cone of yellow light  while Kim and Weiland air brushed keyboards underneath red pin spots, for the show stopping Music Box Blues, simple incredible.

    Lasers and lights picked up the pace for the uplifting instrumental First Snow as the audience clapped along. Purple, white, red and green lasers sliced the air as fog rolled over them giving the illusion of clouds…grandiose !! Napolitano’s perfect performance of Promises to Keep and Russel Allens commanding vocal on This Christmas Day brought the first portion of the show to an amazing climax !

    After an introduction of all the singers by Caffery the second part of the show kicked off with another audience fave – Wizards In Winter !! Fire erupted all about the stage as keyboards and guitars swirled though out, red animated wooden soldiers marched across the screens as Chongs violin skills were the feature on A Mad Russian Christmas, then it was time to slow things down again with For The Sake Of Our Brother/ O Come All Ye Faithful.  Lisa Lavie’s vocals were beyond passionate and reverent and Kim’s keyboards provided perfect accompaniment while a stained glass blue yellow green lighting effect gave the feeling of being in a church or cathedral, instead of a concert arena. One of the most spiritual moments I have ever experienced anywhere !!

    Russell Allen shades and hat intact returns for the rag time like Christmas Nights In Blue which segued into guitarist Bill Hudson’s Christmas Jam which rocked the entire arena down to it’s core !! Green lasers , fire, blinding white lights were nothing compared to the fireworks that erupted from his guitar. Fingers flashed at the speed of sound over the frets !!

    Promethus, The Mountain,  awesome !! Caffery and Chong flew over the audience on cherry pickers almost halfway over the floor !! New vocalist from the Netherlands Robin Borneman long curly brown hair flowing showed off his chops on Forget About The Blame. Kayal Reeves  stalked the stage like a cat during her reading of Night Conceives while Find Our Way Home led up to the show stopping finale of Requiem/ Sarajevo. Fire, lights, lasers, the whole enchilada as the band pulled out all the stops for what is as epic a grand finale as one will ever see from any band on any tour. As guitars, drums and keyboards blazed away showers of sparks rained down for the over head lighting rig which led into pinwheels of sparks at the rear of the stage, fire erupted from the pyramid a the back of the arena, fire erupted from countless jets all over the stage as the band stood all in a row at the front giving it all they had for the last few moments of what was an epic show !!

    In conclusion with this being the fifth time I have seen TSO I can easily say this was the best of all their performances. The lighting, the storytelling, singing and instrumentation were at as near flawless as one could ever hope to see and at over two hours in length well worth the price of admission. Whether you have or have not ever seen Trans Siberian Orchestra before go see this show. It is fantastic!!