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TSO Reaches Outside Of The Holiday Box

of the Oakland Press

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As a holiday attraction, Trans Siberian Orchestra “got bigger than we ever imagined,” according to founder Paul O’Neill.

But now, after a decade of filling arenas with its annual Christmas-themed show during November and December, the troupe is finally playing at another time of the year to showcase its non-Yule material.

“I’ve always wanted to do ‘Beethoven’s Last Night’ in its entirety,” O’Neill says of TSO’s first non-Christmas album, which came out in 2000 and has been certified gold. And “having painted ourselves into a scary corner” with its lavish and (literally) explosive winter shows, TSO has gone for spectacle again, with five trailers of lights and scenery.

But, O’Neill adds, “It’s a rock concert. It’s not sets. There won’t be dialogue. It will be a rock band and a narrator and the focus will really be on the music and the piece.”

The “Beethoven’s Last Night” tour, which also features songs from TSO’s 2009 release “The Night Castle,” also returns the group to theaters, even after it drew more than 1.2 million fans to its 2009 winter tour. O’Neill acknowledges that “we know we’re underplaying the markets” but says he has reasons for downsizing this time out.

“The band has been in arenas so long,” he explains, “and a lot of cities we easily could’ve played the arena with this. But since Beethoven didn’t have arenas when he was alive, we decided it would be cool to do it in theaters.

“I love the coliseums, but there’s an intimacy you can’t really produce in coliseums, not only from the band’s point of view but the audience’s point of view as well.”

O’Neill is planning a new edition of “Beethoven’s Last Night” that will add the poetic narration from the album to the CD booklet, while a new TSO album tentatively titled “Romanov: What Kings Must Whisper,” a rock opera about Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution in 1918, is in the works. He’s also eyeballing TSO’s entry to Broadway, most likely with “Gutter Ballet,” a piece O’Neill began as a 1989 album for the group Savatage, although there’s no firm timetable yet.

Trans Siberian Orchestra performs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 21, at the Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway, Detroit. Tickets are $48.50 and $58.50. Call 313-237-7464 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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