First of all, let me say this: the musicianship was outstanding.
In spite of the fact that I’ll be constipated for a month…maybe more…because there was so much cheese.
LuAnn and I did Trans-Siberian Orchestra last night and it was an interesting evening. It was their standard winter tour, replete with every single Christmas track they’ve not only ever done, but ever even had whispy thoughts of doing…endless Christmas, call it. Endlesssssssssssss Christmas.
I wanted to blow my brains out. “Merry Christmas!” Ke-BOOM. See how that red blood and white bone matches the Christmas lights on stage? Ain’t that purty?
Once they finally, mercifully, got past the Christmas crap and bagged down into their newest album, the show moved right along.
First of all, the tech was absolutely fucking amazing. I haven’t worked in theater tech in seven years and when I left, the second generation of computer controllers and cyberlights were just coming along. The advances in those seven years left me gobsmacked. Everything was run by computers and synched to very specific moments – individual beats, even – in the music.
The music was the music. You either dig TSO or you don’t. Call it ‘Metal-ing the Classics,’ ’cause that’s basically what they do. They opened with Verdi’s ‘Requiem for Manzoni,’ which surprised me but got some blood boiling. They also quoted liberally from Beethoven’s 9th, Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King,’ Orff’s ‘O Fortuna,’ and a pile of other Top 40 classic bits.
But damned if they didn’t also play some Black Sabbath and Led Zepplin. To be honest, when I first heard the strains of ‘Kashmir,’ I thought maybe someone had slipped some acid into my health water (it was that kind of crowd…the water, not the acid). But no, they were really tromping through the tune.
Overall, though, I had mixed feelings about the three-hour show. There were moments that rocked me to my little black heart. But there was so much cheese, it felt like what I thought a three-hour ‘American Idol’ might feel like. The singers, with only a couple of exceptions, were all belters and had as much subtlety as a two-by-four to the balls. Every moment of the staging and blocking were absolutely directed, leaving not a single heartbeat of spontaneity. Even the two lead violinists had matching rock and roll poses with their bows – straight up on the right hand…sort of reminded of the ‘Star Wars’ posters where Luke had his lightsabre cocked over his head.
It was all very safe, in other words. And ‘almost.’
It was almost rock and roll. It was almost classical. It was almost metal. It was almost sexy. It was almost dramatic.
It was almost lots and lots of different things, but not really any one of those completely. Like TSO didn’t really have the balls to commit to any one particular thing.
Because, as my wife and I discussed, that’s TSO’s market. The audience was brutally white, amazingly middle-aged (though there were fringes of young and old: teens, tweens, and those with walkers), and mostly wearing yuppie-fried Dockers, jackets, and loafers. This audience wanted to be able to say they saw and heard something dramatic and so that’s what TSO gave them. But without all those pesky edges that might jar their world a little.
At the end, I felt like I could take that entire TSO show, jam it against my jugular, and cut for half a thousand years and I would never draw blood.
No edges. Sanded fine and smooth as a baby’s bare butt.
But again, the musicians were actually quite good. The pianists, the guitarists, and two of the male singers. Top shelf. They were riffing on some fast classical tunes and keeping up pretty well.
Perhaps the worst musicians, at least for me, were those I call the Stepford Singers. Four chicks in identical black dresses – with tails – and with absolutely identical blond hair. Straight and fine and falling to about mid-chest. But worn specifically that way so their ‘dance’ moves (which were as white and rhythmless as anything I’ve seen…ever!) would look exactly the same when they flipped their heads back and forth. Sort of retro go-go girl in a cage. But again, without any actual sexuality.
The female violinist had exactly the same hair and she kept doing a Metallica/Rage Against the Machine thing that I’m surprised didn’t leave her with a concussion. Head forward…head backward…forward…backward…SIDEWAYS…forward…backward…forward.
But I was able to stomach their bad singing and dancing because – as horribly sexist as this is – they all wore matching black leather boots with just a bit of funky fringe. I can take a lot of crap for hot boots.
All in all, it was a fun night. I had fun with the music, I had fun laughing at their ‘edgy’ performance. I had fun laughing at some of the crowd.
But I will say this: that crowd loved that band and that’s cool. And that band gave nearly $12,000 (straight off of ticket sales) to two local charities and that rocks my sad little world.
So I’ll count myself as a TSO guy and I’ll continue to listen to them and buy their tunes and maybe see some shows.
But I’m gonna keep laughing at ’em, too.
ps – the pix aren’t mine, I didn’t take any. I swiped these off the ‘net, but they give you a flavor.