Trans-Siberian Orchestra takes on "Beethoven's Last Night"
Trans-Siberian Orchestra guitarist Al Pitrelli likens his nearly two-decade career with the rock juggernaut to being a parent.
"When the baby's born, you're there when the baby opens his or her eyes for the first time, you look and you just see everything in this 8-pound bundle (of joy)," Pitrelli told SoundSpike.
"You blink your eyes and 17 years go by and that child graduated valedictorian of the high school and he's now on a full scholarship to Harvard. You will, in fact, go, 'How the hell did that happen? Where did the time go?' 'Boy am I proud of this thing.' That's how TSO is to me. It went by in 5 minutes the last 17 years and exceeded every one of my expectations and I'm so proud of what it's become. I helped nurture it along, but it took on a life of its own and became its own personality. It became something that people admire and look forward to. I, as a parent in a very kind of bizarre way, I'm real proud of what I brought to life."
As well he should. Under the leadership of Paul O'Neill, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has sold more than 8 million units. The TSO debuted in 1996 with "Christmas Eve and Other Stories," highlighted by the Christmas classic, "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24." That record, according to a press release, has since achieved double-platinum certification from the RIAA, with sales now rapidly approaching 3 million. Two subsequent albums completed O'Neill's planned Christmas Trilogy -- 1998's "Christmas Attic" and 2004's "The Lost Christmas Eve," both of which are approaching double-platinum certification.
Now the TSO has embarked on a tour playing "Beethoven's Last Night" in its entirety. "Beethoven" is a CD that TSO recorded in the late 1990s, Pitrelli said, that tells the story of the great composer's last night on Earth. During the performance, Beethoven is confronted by his past, his present and "the absurdity of the future." He ends up in a head-to-head battle with Mephistopheles, also known as the devil.
"It's the Beethoven rock opera in its entirety again with the narration from top to bottom," Pitrelli said. "It's been received real well for the past couple years. We don't want to mess with that formula. We will be changing up the second half of the show, doing a lot of different songs from a lot of different albums that we have. We want to bring out some new singers. It'll have a different look to it. It'll be different enough where it will stay interesting for the people who come see us a couple years in a row now. The integrity of the show will be intact."
Pitrelli explained that Beethoven was deaf when he wrote some of the most beautiful compositions in the history of music.
"What I try to tell people is, if you ever listen to Stevie Wonder -- and I've watched Stevie Wonder play countless numbers of times all my life -- he can't see the reaction on my face," Pitrelli said.
"He can hear the reaction but he'll never see how he put a smile on somebody's face. Beethoven couldn't even hear his own composition, never mind listen or know the response to it. I think that's the saddest thing ever for an artist."
Whether it's the annual Christmas tours or the "Beethoven" jaunts, TSO relishes the reaction it gets from fans.
"I don't remember what city it was in. but this is something that'll last me the rest of my life," Pitrelli said.
"I looked out at the audience; the ages range from 7 years old to 97. Anyway, I'm playing and I look out at the audience and I see this very handsome elderly man. He's a grandfather. He has gray hair. He has the vest pullover, nice shirt with a tie on. Very well dressed. On his lap, is what I would assume is his granddaughter. She's got one of those green velvet Christmasy dresses on and like the pretty little blouse with the ribbons and all the bells and whistles that go with that. She's got to be 4 or 5 years old. She's standing on his leg. And she's standing up so they're basically nose to nose with each other."
The little girl would look at the stage and then look at her grandfather in wonderment.
"She'd wrap her arms around his neck and she'd give him the biggest kiss on the cheek," Pitrelli said. "Then she'd continue going back and forth between him and the stage. If you can imagine what that looks like in your mind, imagine what I felt like looking down from the stage. After all these years of doing this, to see something so beautiful and innocent, and how he looked at her as she watched us, that was one of the most rewarding things I can recall in years."
21 - Chattanooga, TN - Chattanooga Memorial Auditorium
22 - Cape Girardeau, MO - Show Me Center
23 - Catoosa, OK - The Joint at Hard Rock Casino/Tulsa
24 - Thackerville, OK - Winstar World Casino
25 - Amarillo, TX - Amarillo Civic Center
26 - Loveland, CO - Budweiser Events Center
28 - Rio Rancho, NM - Santa Ana Star Center
29 - Tucson, AZ - Tucson Arena
30 - Temecula, CA - Pechanga Resort and Casino
31 - Indio, CA - Fantasy Springs Resort Casino and Special Events Center
1 - Universal City, CA - Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal CityWalk
3 - Fresno, CA - SaveMart Center
5 - Eugene, OR - Matthew Knight Arena
6 - Yakima, WA - Yakima Valley SunDome
7 - Abbotsford, British Columbia - Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre
9 - Edmonton, Alberta - Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
10 - Calgary, Alberta - Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
13 - Winnipeg, Manitoba - MTS Centre
14 - Grand Forks, ND - Ralph Engelstad Arena
15 - Sioux Falls, SD - Sioux Falls Arena
18 - Duluth, MN - AMSOIL Arena
19 - La Crosse, WI - La Crosse Center Arena
20 - Green Bay, WI - Resch Center
21 - Rockford, IL - BMO Harris Bank Center
22 - Hammond, IN - The Venue at Horseshoe Casino
25 - Fort Wayne, IN - Allen County War Memorial Coliseum
26 - Youngstown, OH - Covelli Centre
27 - Wheeling, WV - WesBanco Arena
28 - Hampton, VA - Hampton Coliseum
29 - Baltimore, MD - 1st Mariner Arena
1 - Charleston, WV - Charleston Civic Center Coliseum
2 - Erie, PA - Tullio Arena
3 - Reading, PA - Sovereign Center
4 - Syracuse, NY - Oncenter Complex
5 - Atlantic City, NJ - Caesars Atlantic City
6 - Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun Arena
9 - Bangor, ME - Waterfront Park
10 - Binghamton, NY - Broome County Arena
11 - Rama, Ontario - Casino Rama Entertainment Centre
12 - Windsor, Ontario - Caesars Windsor "The Colosseum"
13 - Battle Creek, MI - Kellogg Arena