There’s no denying Trans-Siberian Orchestra — the prog rock group that has toured behind elaborate holiday concerts for over a decade now — puts on a stunning visual display. Yesterday at the first of two shows the group played at Quicken Loans Arena, the band delivered a bit of everything. It arrived on stage with a blast of smoke and fire as LED lights cast everything in a dim blue glow. And that was just the band’s entrance. Throughout the evening, the group would use its elaborate lighting rig to project images on a series of video screens, at times making it look as if holographic images were hovering over the stage. Toward the nearly 3 hour-long concert’s end, a couple of players ran to the soundboard where they stood atop risers that lifted them into the rafters. It was all very impressive and kept the concert moving at a good clip.
The problem was that the band chose to dedicate the first half of the show to essentially playing 2004’s The Lost Christmas Eve in its entirety. A narrator provided commentary before each song explaining the concept behind the album, which recounts a businessman’s decision to give his newborn child up for adoption. While tracks such as “Wizards in Winter” featured Metallica-like power chords and even got the capacity crowd to its feet to clap-a-long, too often the songs suffered from sameness and didn’t let the large ensemble unleash its prog rock power. The narration also became tedious and it was easy to lose the thread of the story.
The concert’s second half featured hits from TSO’s other albums and fared better as a result. “The Mountain” commenced with the sound of whistling wind and lightning flashed across the video screens as the band launched into an instrumental that was played with as much precision as a Rush track. And the finale — a cover of “Cleveland Rocks” that the band only performs in Cleveland — put an exclamation mark on a concert that, at least for one half, was pretty thrilling.