TSO rolled into Tampa’s Amalie Arena with their 20 tractor-trailers of stage gear to bring their annual Christmas rock show to the masses! Two stages, lights and lasers, power vocalists, rock star guitarists and let’s not forget the orchestra! The 2018 tour is The Ghosts of Christmas Past and the Best of TSO. This was a sold-out show at 3:00 in the afternoon on a Sunday!
I have to be honest here my fellow music aficionados, I am very late to the TSO party! As I photographed the show, I was in shock with myself that I had not seen this show before 2018! I pride myself on being a rock fan and how in the world could I have missed this until now? I will tell you my musical friends that if you have also missed this show, it is still traveling in several states through December 30th! Otherwise, you must make plans during next year’s holiday season to see this rock opera extravaganza that is a mix of classic Christmas songs and orchestral rock tunes that are played by incredibly talented musicians!
Most surprising was the audience demographic. From children to octogenarians, it was a family scene of gigantic proportions. There was the hard rock crowd, teenagers, musicians, simply everyone was represented! They asked how many were seeing the show for the 1st time, of course that was me raising my hand halfway in shame and then they asked how many had seen the show previously, as I looked around the arena most everyone had their hands raised! Wow…
TSO was started by musician/promoter, Paul O’Neill, who worked with artists like Aerosmith, Joan Jett and Madonna. O’Neill had a dream of doing a progressive rock opera that combined the dynamics of some of his favorite music including Pink Floyd, Queen, The Who and Emerson Lake & Palmer. His dream became reality and over the years TSO has sold over 10 million concert tickets and donates $1.00 per ticket in each city they play. It is a brilliant idea, helping local charities in every city they play. In Tampa, they gave $13,067 to the Pace Center for Girls at the 3:00 pm show and there was another donation at the later show to a local charity!
The singing in this show is nothing short of amazing. Dino Jelusic, Mats Levin and Jeff Scott Soto take turns at lead vocals. All of these rockers have voices of intricate range. Soto was a vocalist for guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen who is currently on tour with Generation Axe. Soto also was lead vocalist for Journey from 2007-2008. Yes, that Journey… Mats Leven is from Sweden and has been in a number of bands in Europe and has also worked with Yngwie. Dino Jelusic is the lead singer in the band Animal Drive and hails from Croatia. He has been performing since the age of 5! Their stage presence is undeniable!
Asha Mevlana is the violinist for TSO! Playing an electric 7 string violin, she is not demurely sitting in a chair! She is moving around from stage to stage, being lifted over the audience and all the time playing with max precision. Vocalist Chloe Lawry is a local Florida talent from Largo and has performed as a vocalist with Yanni as well as TSO, a great voice. Rose Laricchikuta brings an emotional performance to her solo. Lead guitarist Angus Clark has been with TSO for 14 years and has played with Joe Lynn Turner among other notables. All of these musicians have vast backrounds of experience from various countries around the world! Al Pitrelli does a great job on guitar and as musical director for this monster production! The orchestra keeps the music flowing among lasers, lights and fire! The story and graphics for Ghosts of Christmas Past just adds to the already astounding show. There is a nod to Savatage with several covers for the diehards. Savatage was a Florida band that started in Tarpon Springs and has a long history with TSO. Several of the TSO band members are currently part of Savatage band.
I might have been late to the party, but glad I didn’t miss it! Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a mind-blowing show that leaves you in amazement.
Photos courtesy of Vicky Sullivan / The Sarasota Post