If you’ve never experienced the sensory bombast and aural majesty of a Trans-Siberian Orchestra production, you haven’t encountered the most continuously entertaining Christmas tour in existence.
Created by mad wizard Paul O’Neill in the mid-’90s, TSO has released eight studio albums — their music a cross-generational mashup of electric guitar-infused classical — and their annual tours rake in tens of millions during their November-January holiday dates, including one at Infinite Energy Center on Wednesday.
What helps maintain the TSO appeal is that in addition to the Kiss-worthy pyro and Pink Floyd-inspired lasers, there’s a sentimental message nestled in a cloud of hairspray.
About half of this year’s show will spotlight “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” a 1999 TV movie that featured TSO music and was initially revived for last year’s mega tour.
In a conference call with reporters this fall, the loquacious O’Neill talked about all things TSO.
Why TSO is returning to “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” this tour:
“The amount of fan mail from people that loved it and then asked if we were going to be doing it again. We exist for the fans. Two years in a row it really isn’t a lot when you consider we did ‘Christmas Eve and Other Stories’ now for 13 years in a row. …We have a lot of new singers this year. This new young singer from Croatia (Dino Jelusić), this guy’s got a great voice. Another guy from Sweden (Mats Levén). This girl, Ashley Hollister from New Jersey (she performs on the West Coast dates).”
How evolving technology augments TSO shows:
“The show that we’re doing this year we couldn’t do five years ago. The show we were doing five years we couldn’t do five years before that. Technology has been moving in such leaps and bounds. It’s one of the reasons we were able to use the catwalk to connect the back and the front of the arena. The way the lights got so (physically) light, LEDs, it just gave us that extra maneuvering room. It also allowed us to save. These new LEDs are just so efficient the way they use power. We used to have two tractor-trailers of generators because a lot of the buildings couldn’t handle our electrical poles. Two years ago, the lights got so efficient we were able to drop the generators, which left more room for pyro.”
How O’Neill always envisioned TSO:
“The mixing classical with rock I obviously got from bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The rock opera aspect, which I love because it gives a third dimension, I plagiarized from the Who. The vision for them was always be cutting edge and make sure there’s no such thing as a bad seat. I saw Pink Floyd, I think it was in ’96 or ’95. The band was kind enough to give me front-row seats and they blew my mind. I simply had never seen a show that good.”
On TSO’s enduring appeal:
“There’s a lot of times where half the audience has been to the last 10 shows, and half the audiences could be newbies. I love rookies. You can always tell rookies because I think when they go to the show and hear ‘orchestra’ at the end of the name, they think it’s 50 people in folding chairs with 20 lights (onstage). When the lights dim and this massive hard rock lighting system starts to assemble itself, they realize wow, this is going to be something different and the roller coaster is off. The more we can blow their minds, the more I enjoy it.”
Trans-Siberian Orchestra 2016: “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve”
7:30 p.m. Wednesday. $47.50-$77. Infinite Energy Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth. 770-626-2464, www.infiniteenergycenter.com.