by Stephen Cerchiari
– Guest Columnist —
November 21, 2017 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah —
Christmas Day came about a month early this year in Utah, even if it was for just a few hours.
Two days before Thanksgiving, my dad, Hardrock Haven staff writer Franco Cerchiari, took me to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra as an early Christmas present. Now, this was a big deal for me, as I’ve been a fan of TSO for years. I remember buying their 1998 album The Christmas Attic on a whim from Target one day five or six years ago, and it’s been in regular rotation between Thanksgiving and the night on which “God has granted all a second chance” every year since.
But I had never before had the chance to attend a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert — until, thanks to my dad, I was finally to cross that off my list on Nov. 21 when they paid their annual visit to the Vivint Smart Home Arena in downtown Salt Lake City.
Now, of course, I had heard about what TSO concerts are like: the lasers, the light show, the moving platforms, the pyrotechnics, the framing story — I’m sure you’ve heard about all that too. And it really is incredible. Parts of the stage were lifted into the air during several songs, lasers flashed and darted everywhere throughout the entire evening, fire exploded from a platform in the middle of the arena, and we even got to witness some computer-animated dragons fly around behind the stage during a couple later numbers. At one point, TSO actually gave a grateful shoutout to their stage crew; nearly a hundred technicians, they told us, spent a month putting it together before the first day of the tour, and it shows. Honestly, it was astounding.
… But this is the part that struck me.
Big lasers and explosions are fun. Anyone who’s been to an arena concert knows that. But that’s usually the extent of it. We see lots of other artists use them in their own concerts, and yeah, they’re enjoyable, but also sometimes only surface level. They’re the live music equivalent of a person who is great at projecting confidence and authority when speaking but doesn’t really ever say anything, or those big-budget summer popcorn movies that are full of CGI and action and style and not much else. Entertaining, but no real substance.
But not Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This concert may have been a tad too long, but that doesn’t even matter; it was truly something special. The late composer and producer Paul O’Neill, who founded the group in 1993, was described by the band during the show as having had an undying hope for humanity. That hope came through as a joyful, beating heart from beneath all that shine and sparkle.
That heart was first made clear by TSO’s presentation of over $5,000 to Rescue Mission, a Salt Lake City organization dedicated to bringing women out of homelessness, addiction, and domestic abuse before the concert even began. Then there was the stirring mid-concert performance of “This Christmas Day” from the group’s 1996 debut, Christmas Eve and Other Stories, followed by TSO’s hat-tip to the men and women of our U.S. Armed Forces and the performances of songs that are now holiday classics: “Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24” (which they played twice) from the same album and, of course, “Wizards in Winter” from 2004’s The Lost Christmas Eve. A stellar rendition of “Music Box Blues” from The Christmas Attic, as well as several selections from some of its non-Christmas albums, was equally as rousing. And it would be simply irresponsible of me to not give mention to the powerful vocal work by Lisa Lavie and Jeff Scott Soto along with a simply mind-boggling group of world-renowned musicians providing the highest level of instrumentation possible.
But honestly, I couldn’t pick a highlight if I tried. My dad has always said: “Listen to the music that moves you,” and this concert was moving in the most important way. It was simply invigorating. I love concerts and have been to dozens of them in the past decade, but it’s not often that I walk away from one feeling so inspired and empowered to make a positive difference in someone’s world.
Show love and kindness to everyone you meet, every single day — not just Christmas. That’s TSO’s clear modus operandi, and their concert was a much-needed reminder that it should be mine too. I can think of no higher praise than that.
1. Time and Distance (The Dash)
2. Winter Palace
3. The Lost Christmas Eve
4. O Come All Ye Faithful / O Holy Night
5. Good King Joy
6. Christmas Dreams
7. Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24
8. Christmas Canon Rock
9. What Child Is This?
10. Music Box Blues
11. First Snow
12. Promises to Keep
13. This Christmas Day
14. Siberian Sleigh Ride
15. An Angel’s Share
16. Christmas Nights in Blue
17. A Mad Russian’s Christmas
18. For the Sake of Our Brother
19. Wizards in Winter
20. Madness of Men
22. Carmina Burana
23. The Safest Way Into Tomorrow
24. The Night Conceives
25. The Mountain
26. Find Our Way Home
27. Requiem (The Fifth)
28. Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24 (Reprise)
Official Website: http://www.trans-siberian.com/index/home