There are certain givens every holiday season: The malls will be packed, we will eat much more than we should, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra will pack arenas with its heart-pounding, explosive yearly Christmas extravaganzas.
The prog-rock orchestral giants again filled the Forum with its own brand of Christmas cheer on Sunday, as an afternoon crowd of 9,179 was treated to laser lights, pyrotechnics and enough hard-driving classical riffs to appeal to headbangers and those who prefer a bit more traditional holiday joy.
After some moving versions of “The First Noel” and “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” set the mood, the centerpiece of the 2 1/2-hour show was its presentation of “The Lost Christmas Eve,” its 2004 release and final album in its “Christmas Trilogy.”
This is the final year that the rock opera will be performed, but it’s going out with a bang — literally.
The Charles Dickens-inspired story is masterfully narrated by Bryan Hicks, whose smooth baritone voice and theatrical delivery anchored the performance and earned a standing ovation.
While TSO is noted for its booms, fire, snow falling from the sky and dizzying light displays, “The Lost Christmas Eve” is a showcase for the musicians’ perhaps under appreciated talents.
There’s Rob Evan, who delivered some very powerful vocals to the emotional “Back to a Reason, Part II” and “What Child Is This” — songs that felt much more ballad than hair-band rock. The same with Dustin Brayley, whose bluesy voice lent soul to the aptly named “Christmas Nights In Blue.”
The first part of the show felt much more like a Broadway production, as those slower songs preceded the more traditional TSO offerings.
But with a simple question: “Are you ready to have some fun,” the crowd jumped in unison as the orchestra broke into “The Mountain,” lifting a guitarist and violinist on separate risers, high above the appreciative crowd.
What followed was standard TSO — lots of neon green, blue and yellow lights, fire, hard-driving strings and keyboards … and even some fun with a quick rendition of the familiar “Charlie Brown” theme. Some may have been disappointed to not hear more of those traditional Christmas carols, and the choreographed head-turns by the female singers at one point — reminiscent of The Supremes — bordered on cheesy.
Unfortunately, not everybody attending a TSO show expects much more than a glorified laser show, although they deliver that with deft precision.
That’s the familiar, but to fully appreciate TSO is to understand that these are classic musicians with talent — from vocals to keyboards to the rocking guitar solos — that far outshines the lights.
To reinforce they’re about much more than lights and explosions, the 60-piece orchestra put a bow on its performance with a classic version of Beethoven’s “Requiem (The Fifth)” and signature pulsating Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24.”
The only fitting way TSO could wish a happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.