By John Benson
There are plenty of family traditions during the holiday season in Northeast Ohio that produce a magical feeling. One is seeing Trans-Siberian Orchestra and its sensory-overload Christmas performance that famously delivers a Pink Floyd-like rock show heavy on Yuletide cheer.
While the touring act has been wowing audiences since the turn of the century, TSO music director Derek Wieland said last year the outfit truly upped the ante.
“Really, in 2015, there was a whole new style and feel to the show,” said Wieland, calling from Omaha, Neb. “It was much more immersive and started to interact with video elements, which we haven’t done before. The narration was tightened up and much more compact.
“It was a really, really newer approach and got a huge response. This year we see that the audience loved what we did last year, so we’re taking that and building on it.”
Naturally, TSO’s busy time is around the holidays. The outfit has played more than 2,000 shows for nearly 13 million fans with tour grosses of more than $580 million, not to mention album and DVD sales in excess of 10 million units.
This year, TSO, which comes to Youngstown on Thursday for two shows at Covelli Centre, is touring its 1996 album “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve.” The band’s debut effort details a young runaway who, on Dec. 24, breaks into an abandoned vaudeville theater seeking shelter from the cold. Once inside, the teen’s life is turned around for the better.
TSO’s definitive release includes crowd favorites “Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24,” “O’ Come All Ye Faithful,” “Good King Joy,” “Christmas Canon,” “Music Box Blues,” “Promises To Keep” and “This Christmas Day.”
To celebrate the album’s 20th anniversary, the band recently re-released the effort featuring bonus track “Music Box Blues [Daryl Pediford Tribute New York 2004].” Wieland said TSO will be playing the popular song.
“It’s a really awesome tune,” Wieland said. “Some songs are just so good they’re timeless. We’ve gone back this year doing a really authentic version that reflects the recording and original live arrangements. There’s a great feel to that song.”
Though the lion’s share of the upcoming tour is based around “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” Wieland said fans should expect to hear songs from TSO’s entire catalog, including its latest effort, “Letters from the Labyrinth.”
“We put five songs new into the show that weren’t there last year,” Wieland said. “We’re just rocking out. We’re doing things people love.”
As far as the concert presentation, Wieland said the band’s directive for tours is simple: more, more and more. That includes an ever-changing light show with unbelievable pyrotechnics. That’s why the current outing requires 19 semis and 13 tour buses.
“There is this massive amount of unbelievable production that I think is bigger than any show,” Wieland said. “They always want to change it; they always want to top it. Right now, it’s really, really crazy. It’s just so huge. The way they have visual effects, it’s just going to completely immerse the arena.
“And that’s the thing about the show – the excitement is just not the talent of the singers, the story and the band, but the production is just really exciting. When you come to a TSO show, there’s like a magical feeling.”