Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Rocks When TSO Hits Town

Limelight Imaging was privileged to witness a Christmas holiday spectacular on Thursday, December 18, 2014 as the progressive rock band, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, stopped by the University of Texas Frank Erwin Center and presented a phenomenal program sure to awaken the heart of even the most diehard Scrooge.  This year’s tour covered the band’s 1998 rock opera album, “The Christmas Attic.”

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra was founded in 1996 by producer, composer, and lyricist Paul O’Neill. Over the years, the band has released a series of rock operas including a Christmas trilogy, of which “The Christmas Attic” was the second installment. This is the sixteenth year the group has presented a winter tour featuring one of the parts of the Christmas trilogy. For the first 13 years the group performed part one: “Christmas Eve and Other Stories.” In 2012 and 2013 TSO performed the third part of the trilogy, “The Lost Christmas Eve.” After many requests from TSO fans, O’Neill decided this was the year to finally present “The Christmas Attic.”

As with all of TSO’s rock operas, a special story is told during their presentation of “The Christmas Attic.” This story, and the stories portrayed in each of TSO’s rock operas, can be found in its entirety on the band’s website, but here is a short synopsis of “The Christmas Attic.” 
On one Christmas Eve, The Lord sends his youngest Angel back to earth with the mission to leave the one thing behind that would most benefit all of mankind. The Angel is not sure what this thing could be, but then he hears the prayers of a young girl who has become confused after older children told her Christmas isn’t real. It’s only made up by adults to amuse children.  This makes the little girl very sad.

When the girl cannot fall asleep, she creeps up into the attic and waits to see if Santa will arrive and deliver his gifts.  The Angel knows the little girl is looking for proof that Christmas exists and he decides the best way to make in impact on her is through items from past Christmases.   
While the girl explores the attic, the Angel guides her to a trunk filled with Christmas memories and he whispers to her the idea that exploring the trunk’s contents might be a good way to pass the time. When the little girl opens the truck she finds ornaments, toys, old records, and a stack of yellowed letters and Christmas cards written long before she was born. 
As she reads each letter, the little girl learns how Christmas touched each person’s life. Through the letters, she learns that Christmas is truly a magical day. The Angel realizes he has completed his mission since the little girl once again believes in the magic of Christmas and she will be able to help others believe also.  Then the Angel returns to heaven. 

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra brought this story to life in a way only they can, with the extensive use of pyrotechnics, lasers, graphics, and lights, all synchronized to their extraordinary musical performance. With the addition of an enormous truck positioned center stage which opened to reveal parts of the band and videos of the activities happening in the attic, TSO helped the audience feel as though we too were up there in the attic with the little girl. 

As the narrator Phillip Brandon told us the story of The Christmas Attic, the presentation flowed from one incredible piece of music to the next. With each new selection, the audience was introduced to yet another musician or vocalist. The first half of the nearly two and one half hour presentation featured the entire track list of “The Christmas Attic” while the second half of the show, hosted by musical director Al Pitrelli, showcased many of TSOs signature tunes from their other albums, for a total of 25 tracks.

Al Pitrelli

Phillip Brandon

The talent level of the band members and singers associated with The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is second to none. All of these fine musicians could, and many do, front their own bands. During the winter months, the band is divided into two touring troupes, one traveling across the eastern half of the US and the other across the western half. The group performing in Austin was the West coast troupe led by musical director/guitarist, Al Pitrelli.

Angus Clark

Asha Mevlana

Jane Mangini and Andrew Ross

Each year Trans-Siberian Orchestra gives back to a local organization a portion of that city’s ticket sales. Before the show began, members of TSO, concert promoter Stone City Attractions, and DJs from sponsoring radio stations presented a check to The Rise School of Austin, this year’s beneficiary.

If you are a fan of incredible rock musicians and their high-energy music or a fan of Christmas and Christmas music, but have never had the privilege to witness this company of talented artists, you should make an extra effort in 2015 to catch one of their shows. You won’t be disappointed.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra members:
Al Pitrelli- Music director, Guitarist
Angus Clark- Guitarist
Vitalij Kuprij- Keyboards
Jane Mangini- Keyboards
Johnny Lee Middleton- Bass
John O. Reilly- Drums
Asha Mavlana- Violin
Phillip Brandon- Narrator
April Berry- Vocals
John Brink- Vocals
Ava Davis- Vocals
Gabriela Guncikova- Vocals
Nathan James- Vocals
Jodi Katz- Vocals
Chloe Lowery- Vocals
Andrew Ross- Vocals
Bart Shatto- Vocals
Jeff Scott Soto- Vocals

Time and Distance
Winter Palace
The Ghosts of Christmas Eve
Boughs of Holly
The World That He Sees
March of The Kings
The Three Kings and I
Christmas Canon Rock
Joy of Man’s Desire/ An Angel’s Share
Find Our Way Home
Appalachian Snowfall
Music Box Blues
The Snow Came Down
Dream Child (A Christmas Dream)
Christmas In The Air
Christmas Jam
The Mountain
Night Conceives
Wizards In Winter
This Christmas Day
“Keyboard Duel”
Requiem (The Fifth)
Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12-24)

"This Is M.E." Rocks ACL Live

December 4, 2014 found Austin, Texas rocking out to some great music from one of rock’s most dynamic performers as Grammy and Academy Award winning artist Melissa Etheridge took to the stage at Austin City Limits – Live at the Moody Theater.  Etheridge is on tour in support of her latest studio album, “This Is M.E.”  “This Is M.E.” is Etheridge’s first album released on her own label, ME Records.  

During her set, Etheridge performed some of her biggest hits, including “I’m The Only One” and “Come To My Window,” as well as nine tracks from her newest release, including her first single off “This Is M.E.,” “Take My Number.”

The introduction of so many new songs in one show might have caused problems for other artists, but Etheridge’s gamble proved to be a major hit with the always music-savvy Austin audience. Etheridge showcased her guitar skills on most songs, but she also showed her musical diversity by playing tom toms during “I Won’t Be Alone.” All in all, this show was the prefect mixture of a talented artist and some great music.

I Won’t Be Alone
I Want to Come Over
Take My Number
A Little Hard Hearted
Come To My Window
Do It Again
A Little Bit Of Me
Chrome Plated Heart
Ain’t That Bad
I’m The Only One
Like A Preacher
All The Way Home
Bring Me Some Water
Like The Way I Do

Metal Reigns In ATX

Hard rock was on the menu at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater on November 18, 2014 when Slayer paid a visit to Austin as part of their fall tour with friends Exodus and Suicidal Tendencies. Mosh-pits and metal were the order of the night as the Grammy award winning heavy metal legends thrilled the sold out venue filled with enthusiastic fans.

Slayer had some lineup changes in 2013, including the passing of founding member Jeff Hanneman, and the firing of founding member, drummer Dave Lombaro. Slayer is now comprised of bassist/vocalist Tom Araya, guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt, and drummer Paul Bostaph.

Slayer played a selection of both old and new numbers during their set, keeping the multi-age audience very happy. During their performance of “Angel Of Death” a new backdrop was revealed honoring Hanneman, who actually penned the song.  The audience responded with a standing ovation and raised metal horns.

Opening on the night was Exodus with guitarists Gary Holt and Lee Altus, vocalist Steve Souza, bassist Jack Gibson, and drummer Tom Hunting. Souza successfully performed his job as a warm-up act by encouraging the audience to form a mosh pit.

Exodus was followed by another high-energy band, Suicidal Tendencies. Their lineup includes vocalist Mike Muir, guitarists Dean Pleasants and Nico Santora, bassist Michael Morgan, and drummer Thomas Pridgen. This hardcore group was successful in keeping up the moshing going until Slayer took the stage.