Trans-Siberian Orchestra - December 22nd - American Airlines Center - Dallas, TX
Last year I finally experienced the Trans-Siberian Orchestra after longing to since it began almost 20 years ago & was well worth the wait.
If forced to give an immediate brief description, TSO felt like watching KISS meets Yngwie Malmsteen at Christmas. That could sound dismissive but trust me it's definitely its own, original thing. Very Broadway but very Metal.
Ridiculously entertaining, a pop-cultural crossover phenomenon marrying two seemingly disparate concepts – holly jollies and the heaviest of musics – and lasting far beyond mere novelty. Finding the median between Hallmark-card holiday sentiment and shredding guitar solos, blending warm, schmaltzy storytelling with classic Christmas carols, rearranged, augmented and amplified via the tools of Metal. To be accessible to the wide audience it draws, the music is played at a moderate, pleasing volume, not up to 11, but absolutely in the holy spirit of going to 11.
This was the second of two shows today – a pair of local concerts is customary – and, according to guitarist and frontman Al Pitrelli, part of eight-shows-in-five-days run. It's a massive production: a five-panel digital screen, nine-piece choir, seven-piece string section, a regular shuffling of lead vocalists and dancers, the world's most athletic (& hottest) violinist in Asha Mevlana, flames and fireballs, rising platform stages, a large pyramid prop spinning out from behind the soundboard and more lasers than the Star Wars film I would see the next afternoon.
Solo singer Chloe Lowery threatened to steal the entire show when they took leads as they both were just phenomenal singers
For me personally the musical highlight was when vocalist Guncikova, a finalist from the Czech Republic equivalent of American Idol, took center stage & just killed - For me she represented everything great about this production & looked like a total badass doing it.
Part of TSO's annual onslaught is a holiday tale, narrated by live storyteller Phillip Brandon. This year, it was Ghosts of Christmas Eve,a revamped version of the television special I had just watched for the first time the previous week.
The narrative took flight with Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24), the track that launched TSO. Originally by Florida metal group Savatage – the group turned one Metal track into a full-blown sensation, the most popular holiday tour on the arena circuit. (So popular, two fleets run simultaneously on the East and West Coasts, so demand can be met, this was the West version) The song, is so key to the TSO experience, they play it twice, resprising it at show's end, as sparks shower and pyro pops and guitars wail and stupid grins spread across our faces. Good times.
Who I Am
The March of the Kings / Hark the Herald Angels Sing
The Lost Christmas Eve
Ghosts of Christmas Eve
O Come All Ye Faithful / O Holy Night
Good King Joy
Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (Savatage cover)
Christmas Canon Rock (Chloe Lowery and Jodi Katz on vocals)
What Child Is This?
Music Box Blues
Promises to Keep
This Christmas Day
A Mad Russian's Christmas
A Last Illusion
Christmas Nights in Blue
Wizards in Winter
O Fortuna (Carl Orff cover)
Madness of Men
Not the Same
The Night Conceives
Find Our Way Home
Requiem (The Fifth)
Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (Reprise)
Hair Metal Holiday w/ King's X & more - December 10th - The Bomb Factory - Dallas, TX
Ahh, a show that proudly declares itself Hair Metal is a show that will get my patronage. I also had been wanting to see the newly refurbished Bomb Factory, a building I saw some of my favorite shows ever in, that I hadn't stepped foot since it closed in 1996, only to reopen earlier this year.
Now I'm definitely Metal to the bone & while purists take exception to Hair Metal, I LOVE it, but admittedly I love the first wave of it, Motley, RATT etc.
I even love some of the second wave that came in the mid 80s, CInderella, Faster Pussycat etc - But by the end of the decade my allegiance to Thrash kept all of the rest that came after off my radar.
For good reason mostly as by that time that whole scene had completely exhausting itself.
I mention this because as for the lineup of this show, this was definitely from that late era - yet I was still very excited to bear witness to some 80's Hair Metal & their fans.
A John Waters Christmas - December 15th - The Kessler Theatre - Dallas, TX
Crash your car into a life-sized nativity scene, gift a recalled toy and host a 4th of July cookout while everyone else is carving a ham — these are just some of the holiday tips John Waters offered up during his stop at the Kessler Theater last night. The raunchy, hour-long show, which lived up to Waters' nickname, "the pope of trash," was part of an annual Christmas tour that the director of Pink Flamingos and numerous other cult films now brings to 17 cities every year.
It wasn't your traditional holiday production in that there was no song and dance, nor any gaudy props; the one-man-show played more like a themed stand-up comedy set. Waters found a way to tie all kinds of current events into Christmas, railing on everything from Hollywood to our "hair hopper” president-elect, but the show was largely structured into two segments: gifts he'd like to receive (at Atomic Books in Baltimore, where he takes all of his mail), and gifts he'd like to give.
The multi-hyphenate artist-writer-director-comedian proves that as a show business veteran, all you need is a big personality and a vintage statement blazer to carry a show. Within the first five minutes, he was throwing packets of anal bleach in the air toward the audience. He'd once received a few from Johnny Knoxville and held them up as an example of an interesting, albeit perplexing, gift. "Who cares about the color of your anus?"
The only gift that Waters roundly despises are gift cards. He said they indicate you think the recipient is boring and has no interests. And don't bother trying to make a few pears look fancy with some tissue paper. "I can buy a pear!" he said. If you're set on a gift basket, he suggested you instead fill it with unfiltered Kool cigarettes — the kind you only win at a backwoods carnival.
Waters' discussion of politics was lighthearted, advocating the use of humor as a means of retaliating against the looming Trump administration. “Mike Pence wouldn’t want me to be straight,” he said. “What would I be doing now? A Santa pub crawl?” His references pulled from high culture (Proust) and low culture (RuPaul's Drag Race) alike and his comedic timing was impeccable. The set often appeared to be off-the-cuff rather than memorized, although this could also be attributed to skillful delivery.
In attendance were all the fellow artists, weirdos, punks and misfits of Dallas. When the show was over, I surveyed the crowd to ask what they thought would make a good Christmas gift for the man of the hour. The responses included rosary anal beads, a glass dildo filled with a deceased lover’s ashes and a big turd. “Do they make rosary anal beads?” I asked the fan. “I’m not sure, but I would make them,” he said. Custom-made anal beads — now that’s the kind of following befitting of a cult hero.