Trans Siberian Orchestra not only took the breath away with a visually stunning display, they also offered us a glimpse at the future of rock n' roll.
Let's scroll back to the year 1814, exactly two hundred years ago. It's Saturday night and you're on your way out and you're going to a gig. It's Ludwig Van Beethoven live at Hammersmith Odeon and you've every right to be extremely excited about it. And it rocks, it's amazing and it stays in the memory for the rest of your days.
Flip back to 2014 and you want to go and see a Beethoven concert but you can't because the great man died in 1827... wait - yes you can go to a Beethoven concert because there is one taking place somewhere in every major city in the world. It's not the great man in person of course but it's the best classical musicians of the day and the closest you could possibly get to the real thing.
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Let's jump forward to 2114 now and wouldn't it be great to go and see Motörhead or Iron Maiden or Savatage... well despite the fact that every original member is long since permanently retired, you still can because like with Beethoven, the music will be carried on by the best of the current time and there will be Maiden and Motörhead and Savatage gigs going off regularly, just like Beethoven gigs are still happening today.
That is the future of rock and Heavy Metal. All of the classics have been written now and the age of the 'rock star' is dead. There will never be another album that reaches the musical and commercial heights of 'Number Of The Beast' or 'Dead Winter Dead' because the internet has well and truly seen to that.
There will never be another Bruce Dickinson, Lemmy or Jon Oliva because these days you have to be accessible to build a fanbase and being accessible means you instantly lose your mystique, the very thing that elevated our favourite musicians to God-esque status.
Tonight at Hammersmith Odeon (I refuse to call it anything else) the future was laid bare in front of our very eyes in the shape of Trans Siberian Orchestra who are carrying on the legacy of Savatage and ensuring that their epic, classic opuses are kept alive.
For those who are unaware, Paul O'Neill is the mastermind behind Trans Siberian Orchestra. O'Neill managed and produced rock bands including Aerosmith, Humble Pie, AC/DC, Joan Jett, and The Scorpions, later producing and co-writing albums by Savatage, where he began working with Savatage mainman Jon Oliva and guitarist Al Pitrelli and keyboardist Robert Kinkel.
TSO's musical style incorporates classical, orchestral, symphonic, and progressive elements into hard rock and Heavy Metal and both Billboard Magazine and Pollstar ranked them as one of the top ten ticket-selling bands in the first decade of the new millennium. This is even more impressive when you factor in that TSO is the first major rock band to go straight into theatres and arenas, have never played a club and have never been a support act for anyone.
The set is built around Savatage classics and TSO's own material and is performed by a constantly growing and changing group of singers and musicians.
Tonight we had ten singers performing both individually and as part of the choir, along with a band that includes Al Pitrelli and Chris Caffery, both formerly of Savatage.
Unfortunately Jon Oliva was not present tonight but we knew this would be the case as he told us himself when he played in London last year (see my review here) but in line with what has been said above, this was surprisingly unimportant. Ludwig Van Beethoven wasn't present either but his music still resonated, as did Jon Oliva's.
Special mention must be given to the utterly superb Rob Evan who delivered the vocal performance of the evening. If the Meat Loaf legacy is to continue after the great man retires, here is the perfect contender to take up the mantle.
There were far too many noteworthy performances to list individually and mastermind Paul O'Neill made three separate appearances and provided us with some comedy too when he handed his sunglasses to a crowd member and promptly produced another pair from his inside jacket pocket, only to repeat his party piece five times.
Violinist Asha Mevlana deserves a special mention. Asha didn't even let broken bow strings stop her in her tracks and snapping the bow in two over her knee at the end of one of her extraordinary solo spots was an act that epitomised true Heavy Metal spirit.
And spirit is totally the watchword here as what Paul O'Neill has created has it in abundance. His masterplan was, and I quote: "This is a group, a constantly morphing group, of extremely creative and talented individuals who are always trying to raise the bar of where a band can take its audience sonically, visually and emotionally."
There isn't a great deal I can add to that, other than the maestro has managed to pull this off and with some style as well.
Every single element of this concert was simply stunning; the musicianship, the material, the sound quality, the light show and the visual impact that each performer made both collectively and individually.
Eleven days into January and I think I have already seen my 'Gig Of The Year'.
The Ten Singers:
Jeff Scott Soto
Al Pitrelli: Guitar
Chris Caffery: Guitar
John Lee Middleton: Bass
Vitalij Kuprij: Keyboards
Mee Eun Kim: Keyboards
Jeff Plate: Drums
Asha Mevlan: Violin
Time and Distance
Narration: Best of Times
This Is the Time (Savatage cover)
Handful of Rain (Savatage cover)
A Last Illusion
Gutter Ballet (Savatage cover)
Narration: Poets & Madmen
The Hourglass (Savatage cover)
Believe (Savatage cover)
Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness)
Narration: Beethoven's Heart
After the Fall
Wizards in Winter
Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)
Vitalij Kuprij Piano Solo/God Save the Queen
Requiem (The Fifth)
Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (Savatage cover)