It’s that time of year again, the holiday season. A chill is in the air, bright lights abound, and traditional Christmas music is the backdrop for almost every office and home party. While some feel Christmas music makes the season, others consider it muzak…rote, listless fare that’s best as elevator music. Whether you love it or hate it, most are sure to enjoy the Trans-Siberian Orchestra‘s planetary-meets-goth-meets-prog-rock take on holiday tunes.

On December 28, 2017 they performed their perennially popular Christmas-themed show at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. at the Times Union Center in the heart of downtown Albany.  The everyman-crowd braved frigid temperatures to fill the 15,500-seat venue for the evening show. The age of the audience ran the spectrum, from tiny tots to seniors, with families making up the crux of the attendees.

TSO opened the show with a bang, starting off with “Time and Distance (The Dash),” which had a backdrop that was both cinematic and video gamish, the building in the background looking like something nabbed from an Assassin’s Creed scene. The show unfolded into expansive, spectacular numbers, centered around Christmas. The songs combined so many different shades of tones. For instance, “The Lost Christmas” sounded like it could have been from the soundtrack of Suspiria instead of an cheerful Christmas tune. It was creepy and dark at points, building to a lighter crescendo. The heart of the show, “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” was narrated by Brian Hicks, who had a booming, James Earl Jones-esque voice. The movie that played in the backdrop was the 1999 television special, The Ghosts of Christmas Eve, which starred Ossie Davis and Allie Sheridan. The story involves a runaway finding her way home through music. Between clips of the film, TSO played songs annexed to each scene.

The male vocalists during the solo performances were strong, particularly Russell Allen and Andrew Ross, but it was the ladies who had the killer vocals. As backup singers their harmonies were clean and clear and when Georgia Napolitano sang lead on several songs, the atmosphere was electric. While the show is vibrant and exciting, it’s just a tad bit long, particularly for children. On this night, they performed 27 songs and clocked in at close to three hours with no intermission. And, because it’s non-stop high voltage, it became a little overwhelming and exhausting by the second hour. If they inserted a 15-minute intermission or made the show 20-30 minutes shorter, it would move as smooth as a freshly oiled wheel.

From beginning to end, the show was an interesting mélange of some contrary sights and sounds mixed with perfectly synced rhythms and visuals. The rock interpretation of these classic Christmas songs is operatic and cinematic, with a touch of Broadway panache and is an all-together refreshing and regenerative experience. If you want something to take the whole family to for the holidays, or any time of year, this is it.

-Sonya Alexander