Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) took Pittsburgh fans on their annual holiday joyride through Christmas classics with two shows at PPG Paints Area on Saturday, the second of which began shortly after 7:30 pm and included a two-set performance entitled “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve – the Best of TSO & More.”
And what a ride it was. There is no question why multi-platinum rock group has consistently hit the upper-reaches of the touring charts for the past 15 years of their nearly two and a half decades on the road, as this year’s tour features a new and (believe it or not) larger presentation of the beloved holiday tradition, “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve.”
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is Chris Caffery and Joel Hoekstra on guitar, Tony Dickinson on bass, Jeff Plate on drums, Derek Wieland and Mee Eun Kim on Keyboards, and Roddy Chong leading a group of local strings on violin for this ‘East’ performance.
This year’s always-impressive line-up of vocalists included new addition Mackenzie Meadows as the ‘Princess of Peace’ and Gabriela Gun from the TSO ‘West’ touring group who joined Gabbie Rae, Georgia Napolitano, and Natalya Rose Piette. There were no changes to the frontmen this year with Savatage’s Zak Stevens, Russell Allen, John Brink, Robin Borneman, and Caleb Johnson all in the house.
The Ghosts of Christmas Eve story which follows the journey of a runaway who breaks into an abandoned vaudeville theater on December 24th and has captured the hearts of multiple generations with the rock opera backlit by a breathtaking showcase of lasers, fire, and movie screens that bring it to life as the ensemble delivers a showcase of larger than life rock anthems mixing heavy metal riffs with blues, jazz and classical music.
The show began with Savatage’s “The Hourglass” as the boat from the cover of the 1997 Savatage album The Wake of Magellan reminded us of the origins of the band before transitioning into an electrified violin showcase of “Mozart/Figero” from TSO’s Beethoven’s Last Night album with Roddy Chong taking center stage. And with the help of frontman Zak Stevens, and storyteller Bryan Hicks, introduced us to “The Lost Christmas Eve” as the first half of the show unfolded. Highlights included the debut of Mackenzie Meadows on “Music Box Blues” and a glittery light show illuminating the “First Snow” as the crowd found themselves glistening with actual ‘snow’.
As the evening continued with the best of TSO in another breathtaking set began with instrumentals that included the Paul O’Neill’s take on Edvard Grieg’s “The Hall of The Mountain King,” known as “The Mountain” from the band’s Night Castle album, which of course Savatage fans will recognize as “Prelude to Madness” from their 1987 album Hall of The Mountain King. Also in the mindset of history repeating itself, Zak Stevens could be found introducing a new audience to the emotional Savatage ballad “This Isn’t What We Meant” from the album Dead Winter Dead.
The second set concluded with some more Beethoven fun, namely the most recognizable classic “Requiem (The Fifth)” and a reprise of the song that started it all “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” in an explosion of smoke, lasers, fireworks and more that you truly must see for yourself to believe. Most notably the larger than life snow globe which could be found encapsulating the “Queen of the Winter Night.”
That multi-platinum CD and TV special, “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” and story was the product of the imagination of TSO’s late founder Paul O’Neill, and based on TSO’s . In addition to experiencing the story at TSO’s live concerts this year, fans at home can watch a digitally restored “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” on our local PBS station.
Since its touring debut, TSO has played more than 2,000 Winter Tour shows to more than 18 million fans. In just the past 10 years (encompassing nine tours), TSO has performed for more than 8 million fans. Keeping with O’Neill’s vision, TSO remains one of rock’s most charitable bands. Once again, TSO will give at least $1 from every ticket sold to charity. To date, more than $18 million has been donated by the group.
The tour kicked off on November 15th with touring groups captivating audiences in both in Green Bay, WI, and Council Bluffs, IA and will visit 62 cities, delivering an impressive 104 performances before concluding on December 30th (view the complete itinerary at www.trans-siberian.com).
You can check out our 2022 coverage here and check out our 2021 coverage here, and an interview with guitarist Chris Caffery surrounding the release of his sophomore Spirits of Fire album from last year as well as recaps of Joel Hoekstra’s Bloody Mary jams and Tony Dickinson’s performances with SOTO on the Monsters of Rock Cruise.
For more from TSO alumni, check out our coverage of the two sold-out Wizards of Winter performances last month just north of Pittsburgh and read the news about Dave Z’s former band Z02’s decision to “Begin Again” with a new album this year.
Follow us @ThePureRockShop on Facebook and Instagram for more local show coverage including shows from Steelheart, Lynch Mob and Quiet Riot to ring in the New Year in nearby Ohio at the new Epic Live in Ashtabula. And, in January, you’ll find us in Key West’s at the Third-Annual Rokisland Festival, in March, we’ll be on the Monsters of Rock Cruise, and in May, you’ll find us at the M3 Rock Festival in Baltimore.
Coverage by Editor and founder Kara Marie Uhrlen on 12/17/2023. Photos credited to the photographers as noted.