No disrespect to the Grinch, but the noise in Whoville is nothing compared with this.
In the first of two sensory-challenging shows on Saturday at Amway Center, Trans-Siberian Orchestra offered its annual rock-opera yuletide salute, a 2-1/2-hour orgy of flames, fog, strobes, lasers and head-banging arena-rock riffage that combined 1970s imagination with 21st Century technology.
If the shepherds on that first Christmas had seen this light, they would’ve done more than quake – they would have freaked out.
The 2013 tour marks the retirement of one of TSO’s signature productions, “The Lost Christmas Eve,” the hair-band equivalent of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
At Saturday’s matinee, for a crowd that only required opening part of the upper bowl, the melodramatic tale unfolded with familiar high points: Grand theatrical narration, heavy-metal treatments of “The First Noel” and other carols, all accented by the occasional napalm-worthy blast. TSO is still capable of leveling a small village with holiday cheer.
Any turn away from the Christmas theme is a risky one, because yuletide sentimentality has always offered the best context for TSO’s shamelessly over-the-top production. Without that heart, all the explosions and blinding spotlights soon become gratuitous.
In “The Lost Christmas Eve,” as TSO loyalists are well aware, the rocking is framed in the context of an angel’s visit to New York, where a mystical search for the season’s spirit stops at a rundown hotel, blues bar and hospital. In its gentle moments, the songs are framed by lovely scenery.
The tale was told on Saturday by narrator Bryan Hicks, whose James Earl Jones-worthy baritone was absent from TSO’s 2012 Orlando visit. Equipped with inexhaustible ability to feign astonishment, he’s the glue that humanizes a show that specializes in bigger, brighter and louder.
That weakness for excess ran amok in the show’s second half, a can-you-top-this extravaganza of guitar heroics and gut-busting vocals without a thread to tie it all together.
To be fair, no thread could withstand the inferno that accompanied an ear-wax-melting salvo that put power chords to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a three-alarm Carmina Burana and TSO’s break-out 1996 hit, "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24."
When the smoke finally cleared on TSO’s “Christmas Eve,” it’s only fitting that the not-so-silent-night ended with a bang, not a whimper.