Believe it or not, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has managed to make its 2012 winter production even more theatrical than any of the previous winter tours.
This year, the band is touring its third Christmas-themed rock opera, “The Lost Christmas Eve,” for the first time, after 13 years straight of touring “Christmas Eve and Other Stories.” Before a full house Thursday night at the Times Union Center, the band tore through most of the album, with all the works in tow — including giant burning pendulums, falling snow (or something wet and flaky, anyway), giant screen projections and, of course, an overabundance of lasers and smoke throughout just about every song.
What pushed this year’s production further into the theatrical side of the band’s rock ‘n’ roll equation is the album’s story — stronger than “Christmas Eve and Other Stories,” with a more concrete conflict and characters. The story, narrated by the superb Brian Hicks, focused on a New York City businessman who reunites with his handicapped son after many years, thanks to the help of an angel.
As with any TSO show, there was a high level of bombast, even cheesiness, throughout the narration and performances. But it’s best to not overthink anything here and just embrace the spirit of Christmas along with this bombastic metal/classical hybrid of a band. The audience certainly did.
The band, led by musical director and keyboardist Derek Wieland and an enthusiastically wide-eyed Chris Caffery on guitar, kicked the show off with the instrumental “Winter Palace,” as the aforementioned flaming pendulum swung over the stage. After a brief bit of narration from Hicks (who spoke between every song to keep the story moving), the band kicked into the main show, starting with “Faith Noel” and moving into the album’s title theme.
From there, the show meandered a bit, taking its time to get to the main character’s plight. In the story, the angel first visits a blues bar, and this portion of the show covered three songs, of which “Christmas Nights in Blue” was best — it was the only one that could have plausibly showed up in a real blues bar. This song also featured the first true powerhouse vocal performance of the evening, courtesy of James Lewis.
He was overshadowed soon thereafter by Rob Evan, whose massive tenor gave voice to the businessman. His first showcase, the bah-humbug-y “What is Christmas?”, allowed him to revel in nastiness before his inevitable redemption and added some much needed tension to the show.
As the storytelling portion of the evening continued to build to its heady conclusion, singers danced about the stage, and at one point Caffery and lead violinist Roddy Chong ended up in the back of the house, soaring above the crowd on two towers. The story climaxed with “Christmas Canon Rock” before falling back down with the lullaby “Different Wings,” which earned the biggest of a few standing ovations throughout the evening.
But the band was far from finished, stretching its set past 21⁄2 hours with further tracks from its other albums, including the towering “The Mountain” from 2009’s “Night Castle,” and, of course, the band’s take on Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony,” “Requiem (The Fifth).” And a bit of old tradition popped back up to close the show, as a fearsome rendition of “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” from “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” brought the audience to its feet once again.