REVIEW: Trans-Siberian Orchestra @ Toyota Arena in Ontario

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

No Doubt About It! TSO is a Certified Rock Phenomenon!

There's one sure sign that the live concert industry is back in business as usual: Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the beloved seasonal arena rock ensemble, is back on the road!

Last year, TSO took its annual holiday show online, hosting a livestream event for fans while most in-person concerts were still on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But although the virtual version proved quite popular, Al Pitrelli and Jeff Plate are thrilled to be back with the band in 2021, celebrating the Christmas season once more in front of live audiences.

Currently the group has two touring ensembles playing to arenas across the country, including the Toyota Arena in Ontario, which had two performances on Dec. 4th. Knowing fans, including myself, turned out en masse for the shows, leaving original founding members, Pitrelli and Plate, feeling astonished and gratified.

Just as in 2019, TSO’s show featured the “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” album as a first set, followed by a selection of other material in the second set. That 1996 debut album was played for a dozen years when TSO started touring, then was set aside to feature the other albums in the Christmas trilogy on subsequent tours. Bringing back the album that began the TSO journey has been very special for the band.

Narrated by Phillip Brandon, the show takes the audience on a global adventure centered around a spiritual figure (in this case, an angel), who helps an earthly innocent discover the true meaning of Christmas. An elaborate array of lights, lasers, torches and screens, which numbered at least 20 and displayed images of cathedrals, churches, lightning bolts, fire and, of course, nutcrackers that marched by during “A Mad Russian’s Christmas,” help to set the scene, and one need not work too hard to imagine – and be swept away – by the story being told.

First and foremost a rock band, the tour includes vocalists April Berry, Ashley Hollister, Jodi Katz, Rosa Laricchiuta, John Brink, Caleb Johnson, Chloe Lowery, Dino Jalusik, Dustin Brayley, Erika Jerry, Georgia Napolitano, Kayla Reeves, Natalya Rose Piette, Robin Borneman, Russell Allen, Zak Stevens, Nate Amor, Andrew Ross and Jeff Scott Soto; guitarists Al Pitrelli, Angus Clark, Chris Cafferty and Joel Hoekstra; bassists Tony Dickinson and John Lee Middleton; Asha Mevlana and Roddy Chong on strings; and Vitalij Kuprij, Mee Eun Kim, Jane Mangini and Derek Wieland on keyboard.

“O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night,” offered as the fourth song, was both as rocking and as lovely as ever. So was “Good King Joy,” which actually sounder funkier and fresher this year, from both the band and singer, “American Idol” winner Caleb Johnson, on the tour for his second year. Also, “Promises to Keep," ”First Snow," “This Christmas Day” and, of course, TSO’s trademark song, “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24),” featuring a massive light show, lasers and pyrotechnics all in sync with the music.