Swedish vocalist Mats Levén (CANDLEMASS, TREAT, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN) made his live debut with TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA Thursday night (November 17) at Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Fan-filmed video footage of the concert can be seen below.
Musicians performing with TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA on the tour include Philip Brandon, storyteller; Angus Clark, guitar; Vitalij Kuprij, keyboards; Jane Mangini, keyboards; Asha Mevlana, violin; John Lee Middleton, bass guitar; Al Pitrelli, guitar/music director; and John O. Reilly, drums. Other confirmed vocalists are April Berry, John Brink, Ashley Hollister, Dino Jelusic, Jodi Katz, Rosa Laricchiuta, Chloe Lowery, Andrew M. Ross and Jeff Scott Soto.
TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA is the progressive rock band founded by producer/composer/lyricist Paul O'Neill.
The group's 1996 debut album called "Christmas Eve And Other Stories" was the first installment of a Christmas trilogy. The disc, which established the group's style of playing classical, orchestral songs as progressive rock, sold triple-platinum. TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA's next album, 1998's "The Christmas Attic", also sold platinum, and — after a non-holiday album "Beethoven's Last Night" in 2000 — a third Christmas disc, "The Lost Christmas Eve", also sold platinum.
TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA is split into separate touring units to cover more of the country in a limited time. Having two troupes, each of which features a full band and multiple lead singers, allows TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA to play 100 shows in 60 cities over a six-week period.
TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA's current show is an adaptation of its DVD and long-running PBS special "The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve". The "Ghosts" touring production made its debut last year and has now been brought back.
"The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve", which was originally aired in 1999 on the Fox Family network, was released in audio form for the first time in October. Concert tickets purchased online will include a digital copy of "The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve" with bonus tracks.
The live rock-theater show includes a narrator, guitars, keyboards and electric violinist, a string section, singers (soloists and chorus), the story unfolding visually on a large screen, and lavishly presented special light and visuals (pyrotechnics, snow falling), and sound effects.
"The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve" follows a runaway who breaks into an abandoned vaudeville theater on December 24. While seeking shelter from the cold, the teen is discovered by the theater's caretaker, who uses the ghosts and spirits from the building's past to turn her life around.
Asked if he feels pressure to top himself year after year and show after show, O'Neill told The Morning Call: "Yes. Every year we always say the same thing: 'How the heck are we going to beat this?' Actually, a couple of our crew members used to work for PINK FLOYD and one of them said, 'Paul, there is a reason why PINK FLOYD toured like once every five years.' I'm discovering why. It's a good problem to be having and it's also one of the reasons why at the end of every tour we take quite a bit of the production and pretty much cut it up which forces us to have to come up with something new, something different."
He continued: "One year we had Greg Lake as a special guest. I love Greg Lake because Greg Lake is the guy who invented prog rock. … He said, 'Paul,' he goes, 'you really get prog rock.' I'm like, 'I'm afraid I have no idea what that means.' He said, 'Prog rock is the ultimate form of music. If you're in a blues band and you play jazz songs, it's no longer a blues band. If you're in a jazz band and you play reggae band it's no longer a jazz band. If you're reggae band and play Strauss waltz, it's no longer reggae. But a progressive rock band you can do anything. It's built into the name — progressive — you're always pushing the envelope, which is why bands like RUSH on the radio can go from rock to reggae and back to rock and nobody says boo."
O'Neill added: "Also, with progressive rock bands like EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER, PINK FLOYD, GENESIS, progressive rock bands are not just expected to come up with great songs. Progressive rock is always expected to be pushing the live stage show. When I was kid growing up in New York City, basically there was four guys in spotlights and you were on a roll. I'll never forget the first time I saw GENESIS when they invented the Vari-Lite which changed colors, moods. Everyone was like, 'What the heck is that?' They didn't just rent them they were involved in the design and financing it. It was GENESIS I think that sparked the arms race of special effects on the stage. It basically helped take it to a different dimension. Just make sure that everybody in that arena gets to go to someplace where they normally couldn't go."