Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

LIGHT UPON TSO; Trans Siberian Orchestra Bringing Its Extreme Christmas Show to Arena

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

LIGHT UPON TSO; Trans Siberian Orchestra Bringing Its Extreme Christmas Show to Arena

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Szaroleta

If you put Charles Dickens, a Fourth of July fireworks show, a Hallmark Channel holiday movie and a Pink Floyd concert in a blender and hit "puree," you'd end up with something like Trans Siberian Orchestra.

They're one of the most successful touring bands in the world - two of the most successful, actually, because on any given night in November or December, there are a pair of Trans Siberian Orchestras playing to a sold-out arena somewhere. One is playing Friday night in Jacksonville; another is playing at the same time in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The shows are identical - over-the-top productions featuring lasers and moving stage pieces and explosions galore. Only the musicians differ.

That strategy allowed the band to put on one of the biggest tours of 2014, despite only playing in the last two months of the year. The band reportedly grossed $51 million in just 52 days. Since 1999, the band has played for about 11 million people and pulled in nearly half a billion dollars in concert revenue.

So what can fans expect when TSO plays at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on Friday? More of the same, but with a different twist. This year's show focuses on "Ghost of Christmas Eve," which was originally produced as a one-hour Fox TV special in 1999. Like previous TSO shows, it tells a story, this time about a runaway who breaks into an old Vaudeville theater and encounters ghosts that turn her life around. The band has never played the show live before this year.

"I've always liked it; it's a little gem," said Paul O'Neill, founder of the band. "It's fun to watch it at home, with your family. But live, there's an excitement where you pick up the energy of the person in front of you, to the left of you, to the right of you. We decided if we were ever going to do 'The Ghost of Christmas Eve' live, it was this year or not at all, so we decided to go for it."

The band formed 20 years ago and is now based in the Tampa area. O'Neill said he noticed early on that there really weren't any Christmas-themed rock bands, so he gave it a shot.

"I would like to say we planned it," he said. "As I always say, it was all those prayers my mother said when I told her I wasn't going to college. …

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