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Trans-Siberian Orchestra, April 10th 2012, Calgary

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TheGazzardian View Drop Down
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    Posted: April 12 2012 at 23:06

Beethovenís Last Night was the first rock album I fell in love with. I was a naive 14 year old at the time and I borrowed it from the local library, at the time thinking it was a musical and being mildly interested in the concept. I remember the shock when I first heard how heavy it was (yes: as far as metal goes, Trans-Siberian Orchestra arenít hugely heavy, but compared to classical and musicals, which I was listening to at the time, it was a completely different world). In fact, at first I wasnít even sure if I should continue to listen to it, but I did, and grew to love it. I remember listening to it every morning while I worked on writing a fantasy novel (I think I got 100 pages into it in the third or fourth iteration a couple years later). 

It was one of those albums that resurfaced many times throughout my life, including after two major shifts in musical taste (the switch to rock, and then later the switch to prog, and I guess since then my current genre-agnostic-ness). Iíve listened to it during many important times in my life, so itís one of those rare albums that is more than just the music contained within, but also a nostalgic summation of all the moments and emotions that Iíve felt throughout the years while listening to it. (But that doesnít change the fact that, for what it is, the music on it is freaking awesome.)

So, to sum it up, when I found out that Trans-Siberian Orchestra would in fact be touring Beethovenís Last Night this year, and that they were going to pass through Calgary, I bought the best tickets that were still left without really thinking about it, called up my brother and told him he was coming. Then I waited.

This past Tuesday (April 10th, 2012), the 14 year old version, 17 year old version, 20 year old version, and letís face it, now version of me all rejoiced to finally be seated at the South Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, eagerly awaiting the band to step on stage and enjoying the buzz of the crowd while I replayed the album in my head in anticipation. 

Itís worth nothing that while Beethovenís Last Night wasnít exactly the Musical I thought it was ten years ago, it is a rock opera featuring five characters, and the success of the show was going to depend on the vocal performances of these characters as much as any other aspect of the show. So after I rocked out through the intro, charged with the energy of each and every note, and the singer for Twist started singing - I felt a small churn in my stomach. He was clearly not the singer from the album! (Well of course, what did I expect, over ten years had passed?) After I got over that, another disappointment - I wasnít really enjoying his performance! When Beethoven took the mic a few tracks later, I began to feel a bit better, he still didnít sound like the album but he was a good singer. But Mephistopheles sold me, he had a bit of a raspy/Tom Waits-y element to his voice that actually added to the character, while still capturing the nuances of the singer on the album. And from there on it it was all smooth sailing - Fate and Teresa both had good singers as well. 

A Trans-Siberian Orchestra show is an interesting thing. They arenít exactly a band in the sense that you could say that, for example, The Beatles were a band. Itís hard to say who exactly you will see performing; and while there are a few core creative members that compose and so forth, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra experience is almost like seeing a real Orchestra. There is no ďbandĒ that owns the music in the sense of the Beatles; in fact, during their winter tours, Trans-Siberian Orchestra actually have two separate bands touring. 

They really are a ďshowĒ band. They wear suit jackets with tails and ties and black dresses, going for the real orchestra look - but then on stage, they headbang and trade solos and pose aggressively as they butcher famous classical motifs with heavy metal gusto (and oh what a glorious thing it is!) Letís just say that if electric violinists headbanging and trading solos with guitarists and posing in improbable ways while the choir dances in the background and lasers dance in time with the music doesnít sound appealing to you, Trans-Siberian Orchestra are not for you. If overwrought, melodramatic narration between tracks by a bald black guy with a wonderful voice who pauses just before the rhyming words to give them extra drama sounds too cheesey for you to take, Trans-Siberian Orchestra are not for you. They have always had a certain amount of cheese to them that could just as easily work for them or against.

There was only one other moment of disappointment during the show. The narrator began explaining events before my favorite track off the album (ďMephistopheles ReturnĒ, perhaps the emotional climax musically and featuring some epic buildup of vocal themes that culminates in the best moment off the album), but then he kept on going, explaining what happened after - and I waited in disbelief for him to stop so that the song could play - but nope, the next song was ďMiseryĒ. I can understand that it would be difficult to play Mephistopheleís Return live due to the number of concurrent vocal parts, but it definitely disappointed me.

Somehow, I didnít even think about the encore. I came for Beethovenís Last Night and when it was over, as far as I was concerned, the show was over - but the band kept on going, playing something like 5 or 6 more pieces, some from their 2009 album (Night Castle, the only other non-Christmas album they have done but no where near as good as Beethovenís Last Night) and some new pieces. The new pieces actually boosted my spirits, they have a great gritty rock feeling, and they were a lot of fun. I hope that they end up in a new album sometimes in the next couple of years (and that it takes the band less than 5 years to come out with a new one this time - although itís been half that long since the last one already!)

Overall, I definitely would not have missed the show for much of anything and despite a few disappointments, it was enjoyable from beginning to end. A little too loud, as usual, but still great.

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diggerg56 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote diggerg56 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 15 2012 at 21:57
As a long-time TSO and Savatage fan I enjoyed reading your post. It popped up in an automated Goodle Search for items related to TSO.

You might be interested to know that during the first year (2010) that BLN was toured they did perform the whole CD of songs. Last year some cuts were made to narration and 'The Moment", "I'll Keep Your Secrets", and "Mephitopheles Return" were cut, presumable for time constraints since they were still performing some other material after BLN.

This year has been much the same except for some of the casino shows they are doing in the states. I'll Keep Your Secrets and Mephistoples Return are added back in for the casino shows (which are shorter) and they only do Carmina Burana after BLN as a show closer.

From the perspective of someone that has seen multiple BLN shows each year, this year the band has been their best by far.

The "cheese factor" is definitely there I would agree but I guess it's what we've come to expect.

Curious...Did you get Chance or Handful of Rain in the second part of the show? They've been alternating those.
\m/



Edited by diggerg56 - April 15 2012 at 21:59
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TheGazzardian View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote TheGazzardian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 16 2012 at 20:59
I know they played "I'll Keep Your Secrets" and I'm pretty sure that "The Moment" was played as well, but Mephistophele's Return was definitely absent. I think the track they played was Handful of Rain but I'm not sure. 
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