Trans Siberian Orchestra / Columbia, SC / 11-21-2004

Is there any better way to usher in the holiday season or celebrate Jesus’ birth than with lasers, fog machines and about 30 of the best musicians around?  For the second straight year, Trans-Siberian Orchestra brought its unique blend of progressive rock, string quartets and operas singers to Columbia’s Township Auditorium.  This time it was to celebrate the release of their latest album The Lost Christmas Eve, which is the third release in the band’s holiday trilogy.  TSO is possibly the only act that can pull off having two completely different touring bands on the road at the same time.  The “East” band made an appearance in Columbia and was anchored by TSO co-founder Robert Kinkle, guitarist Christopher Caffery and Mark Wood directing the local string section.

The show was separated into two acts.  Act one presented the complete narrated Christmas rock opera “Christmas Eve and Other Stories,” while act two was a looser rock and roll performance that allowed guitarist Christopher Caffery to lead the crowd like a true rock and roll front man.    And don’t forget, TSO is primarily a rock band.  They even covered Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” The band then tore through some material from their upcoming, non-holiday themed album Nightcastle which is set for release in Spring 2005.  The near sold out financially diverse crowd was amazed at the light show and lasers which could give Pink Floyd a run for their money.  The only thing missing was the band’s trademark pyrotechnics that were omitted at the insistence of the venue.  This didn’t stop the crowd from eating it up though.  Their reactions ranged from politely clapping after most numbers to standing ovations and full out cheering for songs like “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” and “Christmas Cannon Rock.” It was truly bizarre.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is the perfect way to get in the Christmas spirit.  Their intriguing mix of classic holiday themes and original ideas is truly inspiring.  Even if it may seem overblown and pretentious at some points, the overall strength of the musicianship and the sheer beauty of the instrumentals is enough to make even Scrooge want to abandon his ways and become more like Santa Claus.