Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the Hammersmith Apollo
When rock heavy-weight Paul O’Neil first founded the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in 1993, he had an ambitious goal: “The whole idea,” he explains, “was to create a progressive rock band that would push the boundaries further than any group before”. Since then the Orchestra’s live shows, full of dazzling light displays, gothic sets and brazenly powerful musical performances, have transformed the band into a worldwide phenomenon – selling over seven million albums and performing a host of global tours and major concerts.
The music is a jumble of juxtapositions, melding classical, orchestral, hard-rock and heavy metal into a soaring melodic pastiche. This blend came from O’Neil’s want to “take the very best of all the forms of music [he] grew up on and merge them into a new style” – the sections of rock opera emanating from bands such as The Who, the blending of classical and heavy-rock inspired by Queen and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and the gregarious light shows motivated by Pink Floyd’s dazzlingly lit concerts.
The stage at Hammersmith Apollo is certainly a spectacle. Huge pillars of blue light cascade from the ceiling, a vast drum kit looms from the smoke-filled air like a great steel spider and colossal bursts of flame cast a medieval romanticism. The vast amount of performers shed an intimidating presence; not only is there a sizeable band complete with two lead guitarists, piano duo and an electric violinist, ten lead singers make up the vocals and the London String Orchestra provide a mesmerising symphonic accompaniment.
The songs themselves feel dated. Full of jolting prog-rock riffs and screeching electric guitar solos, they herald the zenith of progressive rock in all its dramatically garish glory. There is no disputing, however, each musician’s exceptional talent. The electric violin is played with lightening fury by Asha Mevlana and pianist Vitalij Kuprij does a remarkable rendition of Mozart’s Turkish March Piano Sonata No. 11 ith quick trills and rapid scales.
The vocalists deliver emotionally vehement performances. Jeff Scott Soto’s Misery is delightfully devilish, Gutter Ballet is ferociously belted by Nathan James – who moves from gravelly tenor to piercing falsetto with ease – and operatic tenor Rob Evan demonstrates perfect vocal poise in Mephistopheles Return accented by a fluttering vibrato.
The show’s aim, says the narrator, is to “break boundaries”, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra have certainly severed the confines between these disparate genres, creating a show bristling with vivacity and showcasing astounding musical ability.
Photos: Erol Birsen
For further information and future events visit Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s website here.
Watch the trailer for the Winter Tour here: