This year, the KingofHearts has decided that it is time to get out of debt and stop spending so much money. (Interesting how he only just decided this now, after getting out of school and securing his first full time job making any real money in years and not when he was back in school and I was paying almost all the bills, but that's a post for another day... under my secret blog name that he doesn't know about.) So we agreed that we would not purchase Christmas gifts for each other this year and instead "do something together".

I agreed only because not having to go shopping is actually a pretty good Christmas present for me (although I had plans for his gift this year and now he will never know, wha ha ha ha). Makes for an anti-climactic Christmas morning, but... eh... whatever. The Dormouse covered that void with the waking me up at 5:00 am and the hitting me on the face repeatedly and the hissing a whisper into my ear at 90 decibels "I think SANTA brought me some PRESENTS!"

A few days after The Agreement, KoH came home with tickets to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for our "something to do together". I've heard of them from their much-overused electric guitar version of Christmas Bells, which starts getting play on television commercials around about September 30, but didn't know too much about the band. I'm always up for a new musical obsession, so I was game.

So last night we attended the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert. Or as I like to call it: 1984.

The first thing I noticed about them when they finally emerged from the blackness of the makeshift curtain, was the striking amount of hair on the stage. It was like watching a Steve Perry retrospective. I'd always assumed they had some sort of career outside of Christmas music. Apparently, not so. Looking at their website, they have six albums, five of which are Christmas related. (I'm really more interested in the Beethoven's Last Night album - which they obviously did not perform in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day - maybe someone can tell me if it's worth a purchase.)

Here's the description of the etymology of their musical philosophy from their website:

While producing and writing for a number of years with various rock groups Paul was always looking for ways to make the music have greater and greater emotional impact. He tried to write the music that was so melodic it didn't need lyrics. And lyrics that were so poetic that they didn't need music but once you put the two of them together, the sum of the parts would be greater than the whole, and you couldn't imagine them apart. Once he'd done this, he was still looking for a way to take it to even greater heights and he realized that putting the songs within the context of a story would give it a third dimension that would make that additional emotional impact possible. Hence, he started writing not just albums, but rock operas.
I am loving this, because they make it sound so much like he invented the concept. My musician friends and I can tell you that this is just a tone poem, the concept of which has been in use since the middle 1800s.

Anyhoo, the concert was replete with lots of screaming guitar solos, laser light shows, an obscene amount of man-made fog, a string section that constantly appeared to be playing with little auditory evidence of such, a narrator, lighted backdrop meant to simulate stars in the sky, and snow. Yes, SNOW. If Frank Capra were alive today and was a hair band aficionado, he would have Loved. This. Show. He might even have been inspired to write the sequel to It's a Wonderful Life - where there's really no conflict at all, everyone just sings and makes toasts to George Bailey and says "I Love You" for two more hours.

Overall, I dug it. I could have done without the melodramatic narration about the Angel who "flew over the world and looked down once more..." (read while doing your best impression of a bad actor starring in a high school production of Hamlet) which was meant to tie all the pieces together and the twenty-five climaxes which each made you say "dude, this one has GOT to be the last song of the evening right?" But nooooo. Ultimately there were enough imitations of Journey and Night Ranger to make even me nostalgic for high school.

Oh and here's my favorite part: before the concert started, a father and daughter team sat down directly in front of us. They were obviously fans and knew the names of all the band members. The girl couldn't have been more than twelve and excitement oozed off her into the rows around. They each had binoculars and when the main three members of the band came onstage to present the President of the local USO with a $10,000 check (representing one dollar for each seat they sell which they donate to a local charity at every tour date), I swear, I saw the girl actually swoon. Later, when they really got into the swing of things, they started an arrangement of Joy to the World and I happened to look down and see the girl air guitar-ing, air piano-ing, air violin-ing, air-drumming and conducting with unabashed enthusiasm to every entrance and nuance of the entire piece - almost before the TSO guys even knew they were going to play the notes. Then I happened to catch her dad - although in a much more socially appropriate and covert adult fashion - doing the same thing along side her. The only time he stopped was when he put his camera lens up to his binocular lens, inventing a makeshift telephoto lens, to take closeup pictures of each of the band members as their turn for a solo arrived. It was better than the show.

Happy New Year to All and to All a Good Night!

Note to TSO: less talking and singing, more hair and badass guitar.