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Gig of the Week: Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s winter tour

Paul O'Neill founded Trans-Siberian Orchestr1996.  |  Bob Carey photo

Paul O'Neill founded Trans-Siberian Orchestra in 1996. | Bob Carey photo

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TRANS-SIBERIAN
ORCHESTRA

◆ 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 8

◆ Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim Road, Rosemont

◆ Tickets, $30-$49 for upper level, $30-$69 for lower level or $69 for main floor

◆ (847) 635-6601;
allstatearena.com

◆ A download of “Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night),” the new TSO five-song EP, is available with every ticket purchased online.

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Updated: January 8, 2013 6:10AM



Considering the production that goes into every Trans-Siberian Orchestra performance, it can be tough for founder Paul O’Neill and his band to top themselves from year to year.

But somehow they always pull it off. 2012 will continue that tradition as TSO’s winter tour will include the live debut of the multiplatinum 2004 album “The Lost Christmas Eve.”

There also will be songs from the band’s new EP, “Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night).”

The change could be seen as risky, as TSO has been performing songs from 1996’s “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” for more than a decade for the winter tour.

“This is more like ‘A Christmas Carol’ meets ‘The Nutcracker,’ ” O’Neill said of the previous winter tours’ set lists.

“You just can’t mess with tradition especially with what’s going on in the world. Everyone wants the comfort of the tradition, but I actually disagreed for multiple reasons.

“Trans-Siberian Orchestra does not live in a vacuum, so I decided ‘The Lost Christmas Eve’ would resonate more.”

“The Lost Christmas Eve” is the third in TSO’s trilogy of Christmas albums, which also includes 1998’s “Christmas Attic.”

“There’s something I always found fascinating about Dec. 24,” O’Neill said just hours before kicking off the current tour in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

“It allows human beings to undo mistakes they never thought they could undo.

“Everybody knows there’s something about Dec. 24 that not only makes someone pick up the phone to call that person but makes that person with caller ID pick up that phone.”

TSO’s winter tour will include two performances on Dec. 8 at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

“The Lost Christmas Eve” includes the hit “Wizards in Winter,” which was featured as part of a rockin’ holiday light display in a nationwide Miller Lite commercial from 2005-07.

The album also features favorite tunes such as “Christmas Nights in Blue” and “Siberian Sleigh Ride.”

“The main character is the multibillion CEO banker who four decades earlier abandoned his infant for a list of reasons,” said O’Neill, a native New Yorker who now makes his main home in Florida.

“Now 40 years later and completely forgetting it’s Christmas Eve, he goes downstairs. It’s snowing. He can’t get a cab.

“He starts to trudge home, passes a hotel and a Gothic cathedral and the wackiness you find in New York City. Little by little, he’s able to undo his mistakes.”

O’Neill said he’s looking forward to bringing “The Lost Christmas Eve” to the live stage and also performing songs from “Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night),” which was released on Oct. 30.

“We think of it as this little gem,” he said of TSO’s inaugural EP.

“For musicians, it’s fun writing the albums. It’s fun recording them, but it’s not really real until it’s brought live to the audience.

“I think live music is probably more important than it’s ever been.”

But music is just a portion of the TSO live experience, which includes special lighting, pyrotechnics, laser effects and other jaw-droppers.

“We were the first band to have stages at both ends of the arena and the catwalks coming down,” O’Neill said. “No matter where you’re seated, wham! There’s a band member in front of you.

“This year we’re experimenting with robotic arms. I’m a little bit nervous. You build this thing on the computer and everything works, but it’s not actually ’til you see it working in real life that you can relax.”

Longtime tour director Elliot Saltzman and the members of TSO spent a good chunk of time preparing for the tour.

“That is why we have multiple weeks in full preproduction so we hit the ground running and there’s no warm-up show,” O’Neill said.

“The first show has to look like it’s been touring for a year, and the last show has to have the same energy as the first show. Also, I just can’t praise the crew enough.”

Coolest of all, the Dec. 8 performances will include musicians with connections to the Chicago area.

Schaumburg native Roddy Chong will wow the audience with his string playing, while Orland Park native Joel Hoekstra will rock out on guitar.

“He’s a monster player,” O’Neill said of Hoekstra prior to being surprised to learn that one of TSO’s own is a Southland native.

“We all love the Windy City,” O’Neill said. “We’re just psyched to be heading back there.

“It’s also a great date. Dec. 8 is right between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the band will be in full stride.”

O’Neill said keeping TSO’s music, both recorded and live, affordable remains a top priority. Case in point, “Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)” has a suggested retail price of $5.

The winter tour also eschews moneymaking techniques such as golden-circle or premium seating.

“What’s the point of having a great show if people can’t afford to watch it?” O’Neill said.

“If we do our job right when we’re in that arena, all they will be able to do is enjoy the special effects and get a chance to recharge their batteries.

“Especially because the story is about hope and redemption, when they leave they won’t think they are going to overcome these problems; they’ll know it.”

THE SOUTHLAND CONNECTION

Orland Park native Joel Hoekstra is one of the many talents who tour with Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

The guitarist is an alumni of Sandburg High School in Orland Park and Stagg High School in Palos Hills and was inducted into Consolidated High School District 230 Foundation’s Legacy Hall in 2010.

“People have the misconception that making a living in music is luck. It really isn’t. There are certain elements of who you know, but it really is getting up every day and approaching it like a job,” Hoekstra previously told the Elaborating on Entertainment blog.

The cool thing about Hoekstra’s job is it’s the ultimate job for a musician.

“It’s all I’ve ever known,” he said. “I’ve been playing since I was 3 and I’ve been doing it professionally my whole life. I never had another job. It’s important for me on all levels.”

WANT MORE?

Elaborating on Entertainment, blogs.southtownstar.com/entertainment, will feature more of the conversation with TSO founder Paul O’Neill including what he had to say about the happy accident that led to the two-shows-on-one-date tour formula.



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