Trans-Siberian Orchestra, whose elaborate arena rock shows have become a holiday tradition, promises “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” will be the spectacle you expect and then some.
The subtitle pretty much sums it up: “The Best of TSO and More.”
The updated presentation of the rock opera it launched in 2015 is scheduled to play Thursday at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
For returning fans, it means familiar elements with a number of fresh touches, said Al Pitrelli, the band’s lead guitarist and live musical director, and a member of TSO since the band was founded in 1993.
It’s an approach the group has taken since they began touring in 1999, he said in a telephone interview in September, about a month before the winter tour was set to start.
“We always try to change the front of the show and the back of the show,” Pitrelli said. “The rock opera portion of the show … will always remain the same, albeit the production is always different.
“The look of the stage will be different — the lighting, the pyro, the lasers, the moving trusses, the video content. We’ll always try to upgrade that from year-to-year because we never really want to repeat ourselves. But we do want to have the familiarity of the rock opera that the people have really fallen in love with.”
The “Ghosts of Christmas Eve” story — introduced in the 1999 TV special with TSO — follows a runaway who breaks into an old Vaudeville theater and encounters ghosts that turn her life around. The stage show features such songs as “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Christmas Canon,” “Music Box Blues” and “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24.”
The second musical component of the show has been influenced significantly by fans, Pitrelli said.
“The folks in the audience are the ones who put us on the map and they’re the ones that come back year after year after year,” he said. “We’re always very cognizant of what they enjoy, what songs haven’t we played, which ones are they missing?
“With social media like it is right now, it’s so good to take the pulse of what’s going on with the people who come to see us. We have, I don’t know however many CDs we have, there’s just certain songs that people say, ‘That’s my favorite.’ We always try to incorporate those into the show and that’s why we always will change up from year to year.”
This is the first tour for the group since its founder, composer and lyricist Paul O’Neill, died in April of an accidental prescription drug overdose. At the time of the interview, Pitrelli was still processing the overall impact of the loss.
“It’s hard to give you an answer,” he said. “The only thing I could compare it to is going to my first Thanksgiving dinner after my father died. Something’s missing but the family carries on and we’ll celebrate my dad’s life. We’ll celebrate Paul’s life.”
However, there were no plans during the show to acknowledge O’Neill’s passing, Pitrelli said, because “I think the tour itself is addressing his passing. I mean everything on that stage … he created this. I think the show itself becomes a tribute to the man’s genius and again the legacy that will be carried on by his family.
“Ask me that question maybe in two months and maybe I’ll have a different answer. From my heart right now, I think that every note that I play on the guitar, every note that’s sung by the singers, how it’s presented by the production staff, by his family, I think that everybody knows that everything is a tribute to Paul.”
Pitrelli, 55, reflected on the evolution of TSO, which routinely makes the annual list of top-moneymaking tours, and his role in its growth.
“Paul and his family, this is their child. I’m kind of like the weird uncle,” he said. “… I’ve watched it from infancy to what’s going on 22, 23 years now. Figuratively speaking or metaphorically, I’ve watched this baby graduate college with honors. I’ve watched it go out into the world … I’ve watched it do things that nobody could ever thought it would do. It’s exceeded everybody’s expectations.”
Trans-Siberian Orchestra had only recorded a couple of albums when the band starting touring in 1999.
“We had one box truck and a couple lights and a fog machine, a vision and a dream,” Pitrelli said. “Little by little, circuitously, we got to the point where we are right now.
“… Every year there were more markets in the country that wanted it. Every year people from around the planet were interested in what this thing is. Every year we just keep feeding this thing and nurturing it and taking care of it, treating it like a growing child to the point where it’s become something so big and so incredible and it’s reached so many people we never thought we’d reach. It’s been a privilege to be part of it all these years.”
David Crumpler: (904) 359-4164