Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s shows put the metal to holiday staples
Today the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a staple of Christmastime radio play. But its 2015 winter tour harkens back to when the group had only recently spun out of a heavy metal band Savatage.
The tour, which stops Tuesday at the Palace of Auburn Hills, marks the first time TSO has performed its debut television special, “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” live. TSO is best known for its bombastic, orchestrated rock instrumental renditions of Christmas tunes.
The band’s live performance will be accompanied by projected scenes from the original special, which follows a young girl who learns some magical lessons from spirits she meets after she runs away from her family on Christmas Eve.
TSO has long incorporated video into its shows, but drummer Jeff Plate says the live presentation of “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” features visuals on a truly grand scale.
“As the show has become huge, literally, the video panels behind us have matched the size of the stage,” Plate says. “We’ve done some video stuff in the past, but never to this extent. It’s just tremendous.”
“The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” debuted on TV in 1999, three years after TSO’s first album, “Christmas Eve and Other Stories.” That album featured Plate and several other members of Savatage, who originally released TSO’s signature tune, “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24,” in 1995.
Plate says audiences for the band’s early tours represented a strange dichotomy.
“You had an interesting contrast between the metalheads in the crowd, who would root on their Savatage band members … and you had some older people,” he says. “But over the past seven or eight years, it really is 8-year-old children to 80-year-old men and women that basically make up every show we play now.”
The band will follow the live presentation of “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” with a second set featuring material from its new album, “Letters From the Labyrinth.” The new songs aren’t Christmas-related, but Plate says audiences are still receptive to the mostly unfamiliar material. He attributes that partly to the visual spectacle of the show, which includes pyrotechnics and an elaborate light display, in addition to those mammoth video monitors.
“I think word got out that this is not only a holiday-themed show, but this is also just a kick-ass rock show,” Plate says. “If you go, whatever kind of music you’re into, you’re going to be entertained, one way or the other.”
The annual winter tour is a marathon for TSO’s two ensembles (there’s one for shows on the west side of the United States and one for the east). The groups play almost constantly from mid-November to New Year’s Day, in many cities performing what Plate calls a “double:” two two-and-a-half-hour shows in one day.
When the 2015 tour wraps up, Plate says he’s looking forward to recording with TSO and his own band, Metal Church, as well as returning to teaching children drumming lessons in his upstate New York home. Although he says he’s always “worn out” by tour’s end, he embraces his punishing November and December schedules.
“We are fortunate to be able to have this problem,” he says. “We have too many shows to do and too little days, so this is how we do it.”
Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.
3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday
Palace of Auburn Hills
6 Championship Dr.,