Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog


The Trans Siberian Orchestra in Knoxville

"My thirst has been quenched." Alex Fardon, 1980

Twenty seven years ago the assignment in my senior English class was to write a tall tale. On the day the assignment was due, we all turned in our papers, then the teacher decided that since tall tales were an oral tradition, he was going to read them out loud and get the class to critique them. As the teacher went through the stories, Alex would voice his opinion by saying, "I'm still thirsty. I want more."

Then came the last tale, a story of an Irishman who fell into a bottomless pit. He fell all the way through the entire earth,plunging through Hell and wrassling the devil himself before rocketing up into the sky on the other side of the earth and plunging into the sun. He fell back to earth in China, and they've called themselves the Celestial people ever since.

When the tale was done, the class was silent, waiting for Alex to weigh in.

"My thirst," he said, "has been quenched."

Tonight, I know just how Alex felt. I've been to several concerts this year, and I've been disappointed with most of them. I went into the Blue Man Group show with high expectations. I'd seen the concert video of their previous tour, and I was eager to see what was billed as a brand new show. Unfortunately, it wasn't a brand new show, just a rehash of the original tour. That wasn't altogether bad, because the show was great; I was just expecting something new. I also went to see Mannheim Steamroller at the Tennessee Theatre. I love the Fresh Aire CDs so I was really looking forward to seeing them performed live, but so much of the performance was electronically augmented and canned that it was very difficult to determine which performances were live and which were the product or pre-production, and that took something away from it for me.

But tonight was different. Tonight, I went to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra and my thirst was quenched. The group's website says that founder Paul O'Neill wanted to create music that impacted on all of the senses, and brother, let me tell you that he has succeeded. The show features a cast of 18 (my best guess as they were constantly moving, entering and exiting the stage as they performed their parts) extraordinary musicians and vocalists along with enough lasers, pyrotechnics, lights, and amps to keep the most jaded arena rock fan happy. The light show was dazzling, which helps explain the 7 or 8 semi trucks I saw parked outside when we drove up. As extensive as the light show was, it all served the music, instead of distracted from it,as is common with other concerts. Every movement of every light was timed to the music and played to the mood or the lyrics of the song.

At one point, they even made it snow in Thompson Boling Arena!

Real, frozen water, snow, falling from the rafters.


As was the music itself. The first portion of the concert was a rendition of the Christmas Eve story from their first CD. In about an hour and fifteen minutes, they told a story centered around two visitors to two bars on two different Christmas Eves. The music ranged from classical to bluesy, from raucous rock and roll to powerful ballads, but the pieces and themes all came together to tell a single story of love, hope, and the redemptive power of God. It was wonderfully refreshing to hear a Christmas concert that actually celebrated the birth of Christ and what that event meant to the world, and one that did so in an entertaining and uplifting way. The band's musicianship is simply incredible, as is their passion for the material, and their love of performing. Our seats were close to the front, and I could see both the effort and the joy of the performers as the show went on.

The second half of the concert is more akin to a standard concert set, with the band tearing through several of their more popular songs, including Christmas Canon Rock, Queen of the Winter Night, and Wizards in Winter (the song those people in Ohio used to program their Christmas lights), as well as some non Christmas related songs, influenced by everyone from Metallica to Queen. Again, the musicianship was incredible, but this section lacked some of the intensity of the Christmas Eve story since it wasn't as thematically focussed. This may actually be a good thing since it gives the audience as well as the band a chance to let their hair down so to speak, and just have a good time. And a good time was exactly what we all had.

The band played a solid two and a half hours without an intermission, and that was just enough. Obviously they've never heard the adage,"Leave 'em wanting more" because they gave us everything we wanted, and then they gave more. After the show, the band came out to meet with their fans and sign autographs.

All in all, it was by far the best show I've been to this year. It surpassed all of my expectations, and I will be going to see them next year, if not sooner. They will be coming back to Tennessee twice more. They'll be in Memphis on Dec 20th, and Nashville on Dec 30th. This concert is well worth the drive to either location, and I'm strongly considering going to the Nashville show.

Yeah, it's that good.

Yes, I wrote the tall tale that quenched Alex's thirst. It was the first time I realized that I had the ability to entertain people through my writing. So Alex, wherever you are, thanks. I'm glad you liked my story 27 years ago, and I hope that your thirst, as well as that of everyone who reads these words, remains quenched.
Posted by Rich
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I could not agree more. I've been to the last two here in Memphis and have my 6th row tickets for this year as well. I wouldn't miss them on a dare, as it wouldn't seem like the season without them.
Posted by Memphis5oh  on  11/27  at  12:07 PM

"I could not agree more. I've been to the last two here in Memphis and have my 6th row tickets for this year as well. I wouldn't miss them on a dare, as it wouldn't seem like the season without them. " that's true. #$@#$ing bastards..
Posted by Peso - linking park  on  06/30  at  03:10 AM

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