Sunday, January 06, 2008

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - An Experience

The Tickets
Last week at work I learned that our accountant had two tickets for Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) that he couldn't use, so they were going to be raffled off to staff, as is our custom. Understanding that my boyfriend, Josh, likes TSO, I wanted the tickets. As soon as Megan sent the email, I shot to her office and said, "I WANT THOSE TICKETS!" rather scaring her...

I realized I wanted to increase my chances, so I asked Steph, Jill & Peg to sign up for the tickets, even though they didn't want them, and I'd pay them for the tickets if they won. I found out later that Linda won them. Rats. I went to Linda's office to see if I could buy them, and she was on her way out - no time to talk. The next morning I went to talk to her, and she stated the only reason she signed up for the raffle was so that she could win them for Megan! I ran into her office playfully screaming that the whole thing was rigged! She promptly handed me an envelope. Huh? I opened it - the tickets were inside. "I thought I was free Saturday, but I'm not. So the tickets are yours." (!) Wow! Such a little epic (if that's not totally contradictory).

Before The Concert
I picked Josh up, late, after a frustrating late afternoon/early evening (see next post). We stopped at Jade Garden and got a quick bite to eat, then made our way to the Coliseum--I guess it's the Alliant Energy Center now... Getting in was surprisingly quick and easy, although I was intrigued that we had to pay $5 for tickets...

The tickets were pretty good! Section 223, seats G11 & 12. This is stage left on the first section above the floor. I could tell there was quite a bit of lighting hardware on the stage, and the center section of techs was quite sizable.

Two men and two women sat directly behind us. Josh and I found them highly amusing. A TSO version of Pachelbel's Canon in D was playing before the concert. One of the guys stated, "Hey, this is that wedding music!" Johann turns slowly in his grave...

One of the women responds, "No it's not. It's [something else]."

"Yes it is - they play this at weddings all the time."

I listened to this for a short while, then turned my head and added, "This is Pachelbel's Canon in D."

He: "Isn't this played a lot at weddings?"

"Yes, this is often played as the processional at weddings."

He: "See? Of course, it's played at nice weddings, not weddings like yours."

She: "Oh, you mean where the bride isn't pregnant?"

He: "Right."

Josh and I totally cracked up at this. These four--mostly the guys--talked throughout the concert. It didn't bother me much.

The Concert
The first "act" of the show was a Christmas Vignette of sorts. There was a black male narrating the story of an angel who came down to Earth on a Christmas Eve to find something for God or some such. Between narrations TSO played songs that took themes from popular and classic Christmas Carols.

To be honest, I was pretty turned off during much of this part of the show. The orchestral players (Madison Strings!) could not be heard at all the vast majority of the time. The TSO rockers lacked musicality in my estimation. Lots of light and sound. However, the thing that turned me off the most was the self-aggrandizing nature of the performance: pregnant pauses before 'codas,' etc. I'd rather see and hear someone make great music rather than witness the cult of personality.

However, I did enjoy one of the pieces in this section: it was a take-off on Good King Wenceslas. Scout (black male, bald) sang this song, and finally there was some musicality! I also enjoyed the guitars in this song, doing what guitars do best: a bluesy back-and-forth.

At the end of this 'act' most everyone gave them a standing ovation. I remained seated, as did Josh. Call me a snob; I guess I deserve it. However, if you're going to call yourself an orchestra, and even have orchestral instruments, I'm going to demand a higher level of musical quality.

The second half of the performance was more enjoyable. They did more fun pieces, even if they continued to rip a few classical pieces to shreds. At one point the guitar and violin (rock violin) were doing Flight of the Bumblebee, but they weren't playing the melody correctly! The end of the phrase of the main theme was missing - they just repeated the first part again. Uck. And at one point a young woman (no idea who - there were so many young blonds who could tell the difference?) was singing some pretty high notes. Badly. Flat. Uck. Boy, I thought, if someone taught her how to sing, she'd be pretty good.

But I said it was more enjoyable, so enough with the criticism. The light show is amazing - they probably use enough electricity to run a small city for a year. And the flame and pyrotechnics were fun as well. And the string master's wife plays piano - and she totally rocks. Julliard trained. The highlight of the entire evening for me was a song called Wishlist, where she and a younger male keyboardist were doing some dueling. She is a truly talented musician.

At certain points there was so much light I literally had to close my eyes. The light displays were also very cool. And as to simply having a wall of sound, that they did. The numbers that they obviously love doing were fun to listen to.

Josh and I walked out into the hallway to exit. We were comparing notes. I was looking for the words to describe what I thought, and was just about to say them, when Josh stated my exact words: "white trash classical music." I was stunned! I wished that they had given out (instead of selling) programs so that folks could know the pieces that inspired the concert. It could be such a great way to get people interested in classical music. Perhaps, since many of these folks are fans, they already have this opportunity - I don't know if on their albums they make the source pieces clear.

All in all it was a fun evening. Would I pay to see them again? No. Would I go see them if I got another pair of free tickets? Maybe. Am I too much of a snob? Probably. You tell me. Leave a comment.

1 comment:

yoopersister said...

J - you know I'm direct, so I'd definitely tell you if I thought you were being a snob. But I don't, and here's why.

You're a trained musician, and you don't need a rock beat, lead guitar, a Motley Crue light show and an ice capade-esque atmosphere to enjoy classical music. Your refined ear is sensitive to tuning, and you expect not to cringe during a solo. You prefer to lose yourself in a violin melody, follow the low brass bassline or focus on how the woodwinds fit themselves into a piece. For you, a showy display with too much going on doesn't enhance your experience; it detracts from it. And that's quite unfortunate.

This is precisely why I've never seen TSO. So we're both snobs.

At least you were amused. :-)