Band Concert Review
Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Merry Axemas
Allstate Arena - Rosemont, IL (Chicago) - Saturday, December 10, 2005
On a cold night in Chicago, the snow fell from the sky like a scene out of a Christmas Carol, but within the walls of the Allstate Arena, something explosive was occurring. Twelve-thousand people, of all ages, gathered together to share a little Christmas magic. The irony is that the near sold-out crowd forked over upwards of $50 to see an extravaganza where the majority of the audience could not even put a name to any of the faces on stage. For over two-and-a-half hours on a snowy Saturday night in Chicago, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra rocked, rolled and commemorated the Christmas holiday in an over the top form.
With power and intensity, the musicians took the stage among shadows of smoke, lasers and loud guitars. This was no ordinary show or production. For the first ninety-minutes, it was an ambitious storytelling performance. As the narrator set the stage, a wide variety of singers would add color to the story with their voices. What we had here was an unpretentious holiday story with a mix of originality as the songs consisted of original and reinvented holiday classics melded together. Joy To The World, Oh Holy Night and numerous other traditional numbers were played throughout the 2 hour 45 minute show.
The story narration portion of the evening is done delicately. The sounds and story are sweet, but as the storytelling portion of the evening ended, the band went into high gear running through classic Christmas numbers and even a few classical pieces-heavy metal style. Ring leader and lead soloist, Chris Caffery, was a madman the entire night as he betrothed the audience and was not content until they were on their feet, having a good time and applauding.
Approximately twenty-five people take part on stage, including an eight piece string section, eight lead vocalists, six female backing vocalists, multiple guitars, a pair of keyboard players and a drummer along with one-hundred crew members who bring this epic Christmas evening to life. No detail goes unnoticed. This is no ordinary show, but a Christmas fiesta with pyrotechnics, snow, fire, rising platforms and everything else you would imagine that you would only see at a Kiss show. Arguably the best part of all of it is that its a show for all ages with children to grandparents scattered throughout the crowd. The theatrical element has brought the masses out, so much so, that there are currently two touring productions performing throughout the country. There are even some markets that have an afternoon show and an evening show to accommodate the ticket demand.
Besides a bevy of incredibly talented individuals, the stage itself was something to see. A massive lighting rig hung over the stage and a back drop lit up the arena as stars magically appeared throughout the evening. As the songs drove on, smoke machines added a mystic element and for those who were still not in the Christmas spirit alongside a bubble machine which blew snow throughout the arena at cued portions of the show. If this was not enough, elaborate lighting and lasers were used efficiently, as the band dashed through their set.
For the epic finale bass player, Dave Z, and lead guitarist, Chris Caffery, ran through the crowd to the sound booth at the back of the arena, where a riser was waiting for them. It took them to unprecedented heights as it lifted them above the crowd in the balcony. Ive seen Kiss a half dozen times with the make-up on and no riser of theirs has ever gone this high. As the riser lowered upon the audience, the snow machine kicked in as lasers and smoke swirled through the arena. Just as this was all happening, everyone made it back to the stage front and center for the final note to be played as fire and pyrotechnics lit up the arena in a way that only Kiss could have done. Not only was the finale grand, it just about outmatched a Kiss show and Fourth of July extravaganza on all fronts.
When the smoke cleared, literally, all in attendance had jolly smiles as they discussed the extravaganza they had all witnessed. Whether one loves the sound of a electric guitar or a simple Christmas story, one thing was clear, everyone had Christmas arrive a little early and to all in attendance, it was a very good night. It may have been two weeks before Christmas, but the sounds of the season were alive and well within the walls of the Allstate Arena and those thunderous and riotous sounds brought the holiday spirit alive to the twelve-thousand in attendance. Can anyone ask for a better Christmas gift?