I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to this concert. I was half expecting it to be some kind of Mannheim Steamroller knockoff using Russian musicians and ballerinas, or perhaps a classical take on traditional Christmas music. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
TSO is more like a rock opera with a concert grafted on to the end. No, wait. It’s a poetic gospel account of a Christmas story. Hmm…not exactly. It’s a full bore, 100% in your face rock and roll extravaganza complete with laser lights, smoke and mirrors, squadrons of dancing babes, and the kind of special effects that just leave you breathless. OK, I give up. It’s all of those things, plus a lot more.
Oh, there were elements of the good ol’ songs from the days of my youth, classics like “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and “Oh Holy Night”, but these were belted out like the lyrics to a hard rock ballad, and interspersed with a tale told through verse (in a rich baritone voice with a thick gospel accent) about a man finding out it’s never too late for love or forgiveness. But make no mistake: this show is as much a visual delight as an auditory sensation.
Here, green, red, and gold light pierces the smoke and arcs out into the blackness of the far reaches of Amway Center. There, flames burst forth from behind the stage and even from the huge clock swinging from a pendulum above the stage. The musicians soar above us, carried on the long gleaming arms of a crane. Lights arc rhythmically to the music, flashing quickly, then strobing across the audience like the fingers of a rainbow.
Then the Christmas tale is over, and we’re treated to a barrage of rock and roll…or is it Beethoven, or Tchaikovsky, or Vivaldi they’re playing? Well, it’s all of those things, and done with a great deal of skill and precision, along with pain-threshold levels of volume, I might add. But then the encore is another Christmas classic boomed at us like a cannon!
It’s all very extraordinary, and it’s all unique in my experience. What they have done is to create an entirely new entertainment genre, the holiday-themed show designed as much to thrill as to inspire, and it fits the bill rather nicely. Judging from the nearly sold out venue, I’d say they’ve found the right formula. It’s the holiday season, and it’s time to rock and roll!
I’m sure you can tell that I enjoyed the show even though it was far from what I thought it would be. My only quibbles are with the ear-splitting volume and the fact that some of the lyrics were nearly incomprehensibly lost in the music, but that could have been the result of the usually poor acoustics you find on a basketball court. And of course the show is only obliquely about the actual birth of Christ in this the Christmas season. But as long as you don’t go expecting Bing Crosby’s version of “White Christmas” or a stiff but refined performance of “The Nutcracker”, you won’t be disappointed. Just go with the flow, relax, and have a Merry Christmas!