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TSO's stage is huge, and they didn't even use all of it for the first half of the show.
TSO's stage is huge, and they didn't even use all of it for the first half of the show.
Photo by Eric Sauseda.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Had Too Much, Or Maybe Too Little, Christmas Cheer

Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Toyota Center
December 21, 2K17

Trans-Siberian got a standing ovation as they finished their set, which was not a surprise. Earlier in the show, about half the crowd had roared in response to being asked if they were repeat TSO offenders. That doesn’t mean that the ovation wasn’t earned, because thanks to a core of talented musicians and a roster of mostly charismatic singers they had delivered the goods. It just means the crowd really wanted to like the show.

But it was as the crowd was heading out that I heard someone complain about how the show just wasn’t Christmas-y enough for their tastes. She was part of a vocal minority I heard murmur this point on the way out, which left me a little confused as I thought there was a little too much Christmas in the set for my tastes.

I, however, am not the target audience for TSO, so the fact that I didn’t get what I wanted shouldn’t matter to them in the slightest. But it did strike me as interesting that even a band as successful and with such a well-defined niche as TSO could still have fans critical of their setlist.

It’s not that their Christmas stuff is bad, but at least in this show, it meant dipping into ballads and slower tracks a little too often for me. No, it was their high fantasy stuff that I thought was most enjoyable, the high speed soloing and ample pyrotechnics bringing the energy up in a show that didn’t feel long but did feel slow at times.

But what was weirdest to me was those few grumbles from fans who wanted wall to wall Christmas music were the first complaints I think I’ve ever heard anyone anywhere make about Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And it was at that point I realize they’ve been getting off easy for years now.

Sure, they've got wicked guitar solos, but they've also got some incredible violin work as well.
Sure, they've got wicked guitar solos, but they've also got some incredible violin work as well.
Photo by Eric Sauseda.

As with seemingly ever fandom in the world these days, there is a faction of metal fans who believe calling someone a social justice warrior is a high insult, and they’re upset at calls for metal to become a little less wild and a little more empathic. It’s the old, “I believe [thing I love] can be anything it wants, except for the stuff I personally hate” argument.

Now, I don’t have any dog in this fight, but it seems to me if you’re going to wail and whine about the purity of metal, perhaps you should be turning your venom toward TSO. This is a tour that is, no lie, sponsored by the Hallmark Channel. TSO is, in terms of making money, perhaps the most successful metal band around not named Metallica. Their fog machine budget alone is probably more than most metal bands touring budgets.

And yet no one ever calls them out for being false metal or ruining the genre. That just seems weird and maybe a touch hypocritical to me, especially because you have to think that a band that donates a portion of all their ticket sales to charity probably has a few thoughts on the importance of taking care of your neighbors.

At the very least, I know that TSO is good at their jobs. They have almost as much pyro as a Rammstein show, enough lasers to make Something Wicked jealous and a stage that would make more than a few pop stars jealous. It’s not all that different from a KISS show, just with less makeup and the fact they’re still playing basketball arenas and KISS is out in Sugar Land. And hey, if you’re upset about the amount of Christmas content in the show, don’t fret too much: you know you’ll be back next year.

Personal Bias: I’m more of a “Christmas covers EP” guy than a “full-on Christmas band” guy.

The Crowd: A whole lot of folks dressed up more for a night out at the theater than for an afternoon concert. My favorite was the person who refused to stand at any point during the show, instead making her husband snap photos for her so she could see what she was missing by sitting.

Overheard in the Crowd: “This time we’re not jaywalking,” a small child told her parents, relief clearly in her voice.

Random Notebook Dump: I’ve been writing a lot about food lately — 2017 is wild, y’all — which isn’t the complete reason this struck me as a big deal, but is still worth mentioning so you understand my frame of mind. At the Toyota Center, I saw my first Pepsi Spire machine — their answer to the Coke Freestyle machines — in the wild. I didn’t even know they were a thing, and while I love Pepsi, I’m a little grossed out at some of the combinations available.

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