They came upon the Midnight Clear, and lit up the Hartford Civic Center on November 16th with lights, lasers, pyrotechnics, smoke, and even snow, and backed their theatrical performance with musicianship and epic arrangements of everyone’s favorite Christmas songs that put even the biggest Scrooges in the holiday spirit. The diverse demographic proved that all ages could rock out under one roof. The Civic Center in Hartford, CT is a multi-purpose coliseum that was perfect for a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert.
The show opened with the band, in conjunction with a local radio station, informing fans that a donation of $16,720 would be given to a charitable foundation called Cherish Children. As soon as they were finished the Trans-Siberian Orchestra launched into their set list, bringing everyone to their feet. Peter Shaw, the narrator, moved the story along between songs, telling a tale of an Angel sent to find Christmas Spirit on Earth from the perspective of a man in a bar on Christmas Eve who helps a stranger in need. As Shaw declared that snow had begun to fall, snowmakers in the rafters above began showering the audience on cue. The choreographed lights and lasers also did their part in bringing the wintry experience to life. The feeling of Christmas was overwhelming as fans reached up and tried to catch the snowflakes.
Positioned on raised platforms on either side of the stage were guitarists Chris Caffery and Alex Skolnick, delivering familiar holiday melodies from their classic metal stances. Their guitars sang with crystal clear tones that complemented the already vibrant and plush overall sound. With an orchestra behind them, one would think that the texture would get muddy or too thick for a rock band, however the band was extremely tight and the levels had been set perfectly for the arena. No one string instrument stuck out over the rest and the guitars blended nicely with the orchestra, drums and vocals.
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra have gotten their act down to an exact science – to the point that each movement on stage was precise and rehearsed. I disliked that there was very little room for improvisation. The singers entered and exited on cue just as the guitar players maneuvered to planned destinations. In the background of the stage, Shaw’s air guitar proved to be a minor distraction, although the female vocalists were eye-candy enough to divert attention. TSO’s first set ended on an uplifting note with crowd favorite “Greensleeves,” leaving fans in the wake of holiday spirit.
The first half of the show ended and bandleader Chris Caffery took the stage as customary to inquire about how his fans were doing. He wore a Patriots Jersey, knowing it would cause some buzz in the Connecticut venue – which it did. It was refreshing and humanizing to see the man as more than just a guitar player in a band. He then introduced the band and thanked the military for its service and protection.
The band’s second set broke away from the strict storytelling of the first half, allowing the players more freedom to rock out. TSO played a medley with a wide range of songs that spanned from “Proud Mary” to “We Will Rock You.” Their arrangements of these rock classics were very original and true to the sound that TSO has made recognizable as their own over the years. The keyboard players got to solo, dueling each other back and fourth. The band followed an etude by Mozart with Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time.” The drummer got his moment to shine as well, demonstrating impressive skills and even throwing in the drum beat from Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.”
The lighting throughout the set flashed a plethora of different colors, keeping the visual senses on edge. Violin player Mark Wood even had a glow-in-the-dark violin and bow. The show drew towards a close and doubled and redoubled in energy, akin to the grand finale of a fireworks display – the walls of lights, lasers, dry ice and pyrotechnics all on full blast.
Guitarists Chris and Alex raced through the crowd with their guitars. At the rear of the arena, they were locked into a second stage which rose from the ground as the two stood triumphantly with their axes, shredding Christmas rock; dry ice rolling around their ankles as they ascended. They rejoined the band on the main stage for the end of the set while the lights and lasers blurred the air, paralleling the guitarists’ fingers and the drummer’s sticks.
This concert was definitely an unforgettable experience. No holiday season would be complete without a traditional visit from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Overall: 4 out of 5
It was professional, original and fun. A must see for the whole family.