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Trans-Siberian Orchestra At Prudential Center, Thursday, December 23rd, 2011

Before there was Trans-Siberian Orchestra, detonating Arena's across the USA with a face melting mix of sound and strobe lights, there was Savatage. Savatage were a prog metal band who, when joined by producer/writer Paul O'Neil, set the template for TSO with albums like the mind bending Streets – A Rock Opera. Paul was joined in his vision by Savatage's Jon Oliva, Bob Kinkel and Al Pitrelli and TSO was formed back in 1999.

So from big things, Mama, bigger things sometimes grow. Fast forward 15 years and TSO are at Prudential Center and I have fifth row seats for their Christmas spectacular. And spectacular it is, TSO are on of the top ten selling tours of the past decade and it is easy to see why. What Paul O'Neil has brought together has the heft of genus, it is an idea so clever, so American and so absorbed in the clefts of populism, that is isn't just the miracle of Christmas but the miracle that nobody thought of it t before. What Paul has done is stage an extravaganza which builds upon Trans-Siberian Orchestra's  three  Christmas themed rock opera albums, a remnant of TSO's Savatage past, and from those blocks have added high pop culture Lloyd Webber orchestration, choirs, soul singers, a laser show of overwhelming power and an entire rock band, and shaken it up like a a snow dome -almost literally as, at one point while the narrator tells of an Angels travels around the world, it actually snows in doors.

It is actually pretty amazing: but O'Neil, who worked with Joan Jett among many others earlier in his career, understands music well enough that he realized there was a niche for a sound adding Emerson, Lake And Palmer to Queen, with the emotional resonance of, Paul's reference, Charles Dickens, He has taken a Broadway type staging, spending millions upon millions, and putting it on the road. O'Neil has two TSO bands traveling round the US at this time of year. And if the jpyful Prudential Center audience, as white and as middle class a family as imaginable, is anything to go by, they are handing over their money with alacrity. The audience is preening with pleasure, watching astounded as guitarists so good they could play for King Crimson, are followed by a violinist dancing across the stage. Two banks of keyboards bracket the stage, and LCD screens flash pictures of American, and world icons.

Perhaps O'Neil understands this market because he is this market: as rockers grow older, it makes sense to mash together middlebrow concerns with lowbrow sound, the high and the low of rock and roll culture, in a miama of sounds and signals, worship, hope, a mix of 50s optimism, with 70s sound.

This is dazzling entertainment. Especially when you are in the fifth row! I have bought advertising for TSO for a number of years now but this was my first time seeing them live. It was everything you could want in a client. A powerful, overwhelming experience though, caveat, I am not a huge prog-rock fan, and the second half was a touch too long.

Stil, TSO are unlike any band or orchestra you have ever seen and a new Christmas tradition is born.

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