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27 April 2010 @ 10:38 pm
Bp's Song of the Week #78: Trans-Siberian Orchestra "Who Is This Child"  
This has been the longest dry stretch in the 2 years I’ve been sending out Bp’s Song of the Week; over a month. Thanks to those who emailed wondering what happened.

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra happened.

I’ve been musically consumed by TSO for the past month or more as they tour for the first time outside of the Holiday season. I, and many others, have been waiting for this tour for almost 10 years since it was first announced (those who are aware of TSO are probably also aware that a) they tend to announce projects very early in their gestation period, and b) have a tendency to take a really long time to complete projects.) Let’s go back to the beginning, to where it started for me…

On May 23, 2000, twec.com hosted an online chat with TSO Producer Paul O’Neill to promote the release of their first non-holiday release Beethoven’s Last Night. I had been with Trans World for 5 months and was always helping out with the chats either in the office or remotely from home. On this night I wasn’t even signed up to help out, but for one reason or another I signed on and jumped into the chat room. It was a sparsely attended chat and I while I had no clue who or what TSO was, I remembered that I had picked up a white cardboard sleeve promo CD at work and amazingly enough, I found it and popped it into the computer as I sat and sorted through questions that were very slowly coming in from fans. As the Overture started something magical happened and I closed the door and turned up the disc louder.

Because Rush has been my #1 since I was in Jr. High School, at that time I compared everything to them and I was hearing strains of them in those first few tracks of the disc and since there were few questions coming in I started to type up a few and submit them. The sound that was pouring out of my speakers was an amazing combination of hard rock, classical motifs and melodies, and majestic drama. Who and what was the Trans-Siberian Orchestra?! My interest is spelled out in this question I submitted:

Squinty: How did you choose which pieces to re-invent for Beethoven's Last Night? I really love the opening “Overture” - really, really spooky and tension-filled!

I continued to ask more questions, but sadly I was only minutes into my relationship with their music, if only I had known previously and had educated, well-thought out questions. As 2000 unfolded I listened to the disc more and more, falling more and more in love with what I heard. I was being inundated with music from all sides, which is the only reason I can think of that I didn’t investigate their 2 Holiday records or check out Savatage, which TSO was essentially born from. The Beethoven’s Last Night CD did enter my Picks of 2000 at #10 that year, but it wasn’t until Dec. 8th when I saw them live that I was knocked flat out. Thanks to JB, I was at that first TSO Albany show when they split the band into two touring groups in order to cover the East & West of the U.S. during the short holiday time frame. Having no clue about their Holiday discs at the time I didn’t know what to expect, but I was utterly blown away. Within weeks I picked up the two Holiday CDs and a sample of Savatage discs as well! At the show I was excited when it was announced that they were hoping to tour Beethoven’s Last Night in the Spring (the joke now is that it was never stated Spring of what year).

So here we are almost 10 years later. It’s been a fun ride since then catching every Winter Tour (many multiple times), having some truly wonderful TSO experiences, and meeting some wonderful people and friends. The three shows on the Beethoven’s Last Night tour in the past few weeks were some of the best performances I’ve ever seen. A beautiful combination of narration, music, and production. I was lucky enough to catch 3 shows over a 14-day period, early in the tour. It was interesting to see the minor changes and the improvement of the show as each show came and went. I could go on for days (and I have to others), but I’ll let the videos do the talking, and just sum up one of the three shows I saw with my show notes (below).

Who Is This Child – the final 90-seconds, my favorite section of the Beethoven’s Last Night tour. This doesn’t give proper justice to the show, but what it does is a) present my favorite part of the show, b) display the passion and intensity of TSO and of Rob Evan, who played the role of Beethoven (he did 600 performances in the lead role of Jekyll & Hyde of Broadway), and c) highlight my favorite male vocalist currently. If you’re interested in the full song, check out my video from Albany here (also from the front row, but zoomed further back than the Hartford video).

Beethoven is given one last chance by the Devil to save his just completed 10th Symphony, but in order to do so, he would have to sacrifice the life of a child he’s never met who is sleeping in the gutter outside of his window. He is torn between this stranger whose fate lies in his hands, and the loss of what he believes is his finest composition:
“Can you see it in the night, can you feel that it’s out there, it’s the arcing of a life, and it’s hanging in the air, though I try to close my eyes and pretend that I don’t know, in my heart I just can’t let it go, there has to be another way for me, a way that leads from this insanity, a way that leads from my destruction as I say, can you see it in the night, can you feel that it’s out there, it’s the arcing of a life, and it’s hanging in the air, thought I try to close my eyes and pretend that I don’t know, in my heart I just can’t it go…”

More from the Beethoven’s Last Night Tour:

The song preceding “Who is this Child” in the story, sung by the devil, Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Journey, Yngwie Malmsteen) is brutal and intense – “Misery.”

More lasers than a lasik eye center, “Toccata” (check the mirrors lining the pit, normally the lip of the stage, provides a great laser effect).

New to TSO, Chloe Lowery is stunning and brilliant, “After the Fall” (acoustic live)

Piano and the lovely Valentina Porter, “A Final Dream.”

Hyper-active violinist, lasers, a Flying-V, and Figaro, “Mozart.”

Jay Pearce as Twist, does some vocal gymnastics as he taunts Beethoven in “What Good This Deafness?”

Nine other vocalists join Beethoven for a 4-part counterpoint/round on “Mephistopheles’ Return.”

Bryan Hicks masterfully handles about 45 minutes of narration during this tour, including the climax of the story, check out the final showdown between Beethoven and the Devil here.

If you liked “Who Is this Child” here is another stunning Rob Evan performance:
This Is Who You Are

For those interested (and not yet bored)…

4/10/2010 Palace Theater, Albany, NY show review:

Arriving at the venue it was the customary marquee shot and into the fan club line – quick and easy. I love the paperless ticket method!

It was great catching up with folks before the show. My Dad was at his first non-Holiday and 7th TSO show and he happened to be sitting directly behind Roy from the D-group, who I sadly didn’t run into afterward. Lisa and her mom and the sweet gal from NH who I cannot remember her name at all, and Emily as well. Richard who has seats behind me. So nice to run into friendly faces at TSO – and it turns out sitting next to my dad was a co-worker who I hadn’t seen in about 5 years so that was a nice catch up.

My front row seat was directly in front of Vitalij and Jane – an empty seat next to me the entire night. Granted being a Caffery fan I really wanted to be closer to him, but I can’t complain, I had Caff side in Syracuse, center for Hartford and Vitalij side for Albany, so I had close seats at every angle – what’s not to like? It was a nice vantage point to get shots of Vitalij and the vocalists without the mic stand and mic being too distracting. I fired off about 450 photos and 9 videos (The Moment, Vienna, Mozart, The Dreams of Candlelight, The Dark, This Is Who You Are, Misery, Who Is this Child, A Final Dream, Toccata). A lot of the photos were blurry or dark, but I got 120 or so respectable ones with my aged Canon Powershot. Between the three shows I got good coverage of everyone I think. I shot a similar number of pics of Rob as I did Chloe, but she happened to be better lit and so the photos I posted look like the Chloe-show, but it’s just that light really helps.
During the check presentation Chris was mentioning WPYX radio and Wolf (morning show jock) and name dropped Poughkeepsie instead of Albany (granted, Wolf used to work in Poughkeepsie and Chris worked with him there as well as it being a stone’s throw from where Chris grew up) – a very funny Spinal Tap moment. Chris said it had been a long week.

I knew exactly what songs I wanted to film and had my setlist with me to make sure I didn’t miss anything in the excitement of the show, switching between photos and videos. Between the three shows I filmed about 80% of the show so I’m happy with that. And most importantly I got Who Is This Child (or the best 2 minutes of) at all three shows.

Mozart & Memories was placed without narration immediately following What Is Eternal. Sounded good there and as always, Rob’s last note for What Is Eternal was brilliant! This non-BLN track was first inserted into the BLN portion on 4/8 at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. It’s nice as it gives the band one more track to rock out for during BLN, and extends the set list. Previously they were alternating Toccata and The Mountain during the non-BLN portion, but now they are playing both.
Misc. Albany notes:
• The three bass drum kicks immediately following “the silence was all” leading into Requiem send shivers down my spine – those kicks are enormous!
• Is Chloe Lowery the new Jen Cella? I’ll always miss Jen and was hoping she’d be Theresa on this tour, but I’m not at all disappointed now.
• The melody that segues the first part of A Last Illusion into the gang vocal section always makes me want to burst out in tears of joy – it’s such a moving melody. So nice to hear the full version live after so long of getting just that first section.
• John Brink continues to get into his Young Beethoven – it’s been nice to see that transformation take place over the last couple weeks. He only has 3-4 minutes on stage, but he leaves an impression.
• The high five that Chris and Al give each other at the end of the solo in Believe is just such an amazing moment. I’m sure it means different things to them, but for me it’s the exclamation point to an amazing performed solo, which is a gorgeous melody, but also a sign of unity in their appreciation for and love of Criss Oliva who originally wrote and performed the solo with Savatage before his death in 1993.
• What is Caffery doing tossing his Night Castle Dean guitar into the air?
• I had a great viewpoint of Chris working the wah-wah pedal during Toccata and was glad I filmed that track. I did however cut back and forth a few times to the controversial dancing girls more as an archiving of events and because the girls themselves are great, even if the dancing isn’t necessarily a necessary part of the show.
• Additionally I also captured some laser footage during Toccata of the strip line of mirrors that run the entire length of the stage at the front lip (well, in Syracuse and Hartford they were on the front lip, but here in Albany they were inside the orchestra pit on the floor of the venue.
• 4/6 of Savatage running through blistering versions of Believe and The Mountain at the end of the show – amazing.

For the signing line instead of reprinting more 8x10’s from previous shows I stole Lisa Scott’s idea and had a bound photo book made (20 pages = $20 and it looks great) so I had pages for most folks and co-pages for others, but it looks so nice all signed up and is a great memoir. However it was a pain during the line flipping from page to page, although a number of the band members enjoyed flipping through it.

Jay came out early into the venue after the show for the meet & greet for those with VIP passes and laminates, so we got to chat with him for a few minutes. He greeted me with a hearty “Hey Brad, nice to see you again.” Huh? Nice to see me, pshaw…nice to see and hear you Jay!! He was the first to sign the photo book and was just nice as can be as always. He reiterated that after this tour the recording commences on Romanov and that Paul would like to put Beethoven up as a stage production.

While bringing up the rear of the signing line I went ahead to write down the order of the band at the table so we could organize photos, etc. and Bart from the West was standing across from the signing tables and I rudely interrupted he and his fiancé, Amy, and shook his hand saying it was a pleasure to meet him and while I’d never seen him perform, I’ve heard of the legend. Amy I think thought that he and I knew each other, but I said “I’m just a fan.” Bart replied, “So am I. Wasn’t this great!” Both were so very nice and we ended up chatting about the show until Emily, Lisa, Cindy, etc. who were at the end of the line were now behind me at the table – so maybe 25-30 minutes? It was a great chat and they were very interested in how the fan reaction had been (I told them all positive, astounding, the only complaints were about maybe the narration being a little long, which I contest as I love it as is – and we talked about how awesome Bryan was – and the dancing girls. For the record, they both loved them and that they brought a different element to the stage.). But they loved the show and couldn’t say enough nice things about Rob. I asked how it was to be on the ‘other’ side of a TSO show and he said it was amazing. They were two fans of the show, just as much blown away as I was – it was really fun to see.

It’s a good time to segue to something else that it seems apparent about this tour, that it really was an uncertain for everyone involved, fans and band alike – how would it be received. When you’re doing the same something for 10 years, how is a shift received? It seems that the band too are just real fans of this show – glad to be doing something fresh and genuinely excited about how it’s being received and how exciting it is to be a part of it.

Signing Line:
I gave Jeff the fanny-pack he asked me about in Hartford (after the M&G there he pointed and said “Where did you get that?” I had no idea what he was talking about and he explained that he hasn’t been able to find a good leather fanny-pack in ages, the last one being in Europe, and he was wondering if I knew where I got it. I didn’t, but told him that I had a second one at home and I’d bring it in Albany.). The least I could do for all the amazing shows he’s been the backbone of over the years.

Vali reached over the table to give me a hug and I asked if she was feeling better. She said “No.” I told her it didn’t show as she was amazing on stage and I thanked her for the radio station info tweets again.

I told Chloe that the Hartford radio station performance was knee-buckling. She laughed and thanked me for sending her the links as she’d have never seen it otherwise.

JSS thought the shot of him in the book was cool – I really think he’s enjoying his devilish role on the tour. I’ve never heard so many nice things about a devil before!

Johnny Lee asked where one of the shots in the book was from as it’s a pretty dramatic show in white light, legs split, forming almost a triangle with his bass neck in the air (Hartford, end of show) and was excited to see it….gotta FB him it – reminder.

Rob was amazing as ever. I told him this was the last of the tour from me and he frowned, “No! I get energy from you out there.” Yea, I exude some energy maybe. Although I learned that fist pumping and filming don’t necessarily render steady camerawork (see This Is Who You Are, lol). He just smiled when I told him to let me stowaway in the luggage compartment of the bus.

Emily and I waited at the end of the table where most of the band was passing through to go back downstairs and so we grabbed photos with Dani, Johnny, Jane, Roddy, Vitalij, and Rob.

What an amazing series of 3 shows. So many fantastic memories, so many wonderful people, some amazing performances.

Click here for 130+ photos (public album for non-FB members)

The Moment
The Dreams of Candlelight
The Dark
This is Who You Are
Who Is this Child
A Final Dream