Quantcast
metroactive logo

Shred the Halls

In Music
BOW DOWN: With Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Al Pitrelli (pictured) has turned Christmas into a face-melting affair.

BOW DOWN: With Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Al Pitrelli (pictured) has turned Christmas into a face-melting affair.

The first time Trans-Siberian Orchestra took the stage in the late ’90s—a sold-out theater in Philadelphia—no one in the band knew what to expect. They had a few platinum records already, but it was orchestral metal Christmas music. Who exactly was the audience for this?

Guitarist Al Pitrelli recalls peering through the curtain before the show to get a look at the crowd. He saw an older couple in their early 70s with matching crocheted reindeer sweaters sitting next to a young guy wearing a Slayer hoodie.

“I nearly had an anxiety attack,” Pitrelli says. “Oh my god, we’re dead, because the audience was so diverse. Either they thought they would come to see some Russian orchestra or Slayer. Either way, this is going to be a really long two hours of my life.”

The show went so well that the Tampa, Florida-based Trans-Siberian Orchestra got a standing ovation. The thing that terrified Pitrelli was precisely what makes the project so amazing: like Christmas itself, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has universal appeal.

“It wasn’t any particular demographic. People love this music, and they love the story,” Pitrelli says.

The group’s 1996 song “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24,” an emotional, squealing electric guitar-infused medly of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” and “Shchedryk,” has become one of the most recognizable and loved Christmas tunes in the past few decades—no small feat. Christmas music tends to be passed down from generation to generation. It’s not often that newer songs penetrate this ritual and become a part of families’ new tradition. But people have now made listening to and seeing Trans-Siberian Orchestra part of their holiday tradition. The band comes to the SAP Center on Dec. 1, celebrating the 25th anniversary of their debut album Christmas Eve and Other Stories.

A year earlier, Paul O’Neill had envisioned “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” as a song for his metal band Savatage. He enlisted Pitrelli to help fulfill his vision. The song landed on Savatage’s 1995 record Dead Winter Dead. It also got instant, heavy radio play.

“It became the number one song in America in a matter of moments,” Pitrelli says. “Every radio station played it, even talk radio. Country, gospel, Christian, Top 40, you name it. They couldn’t get enough of it.”

O’Neill re-released the song as part of the concept album Christmas Eve and Other Stories with Pitrelli and a massive band with metal instrumentation, countless singers, and a full orchestra under the name Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The record tells a stirring tale of loss, love and the power of Christmas. It was an instant hit, and went on to sell over 3 million copies.

“Paul created something nobody was expecting—nobody ever heard. He got everyone’s attention, and they fell in love with it,” Pitrelli says.

The group completed their Christmas trilogy with The Christmas Attic (1998) and The Lost Christmas (2004). Both went double platinum.

“I felt like I was in the Steely Dan of Christmas,” Pitrelli says.

Even after a few hit records, the idea of somehow translating this project to a live setting seemed absurd. Then someone dared O’Neill to do it. The first shows were in theaters with a few thousand capacities and somewhat scaled-down versions of the band. It did so well that he was able to move to arena-sized venues and make it as big of a production as he could imagine.

The show varies year to year, but often Christmas Eve and Other Stories is its centerpiece. The show has continued even after O’Neill passed away in 2017—because that’s what he wanted.

This year, Pitrelli also feels people are going to be particularly emotional.

“I think the biggest part of the production is going to be the emotion behind the performance,” Pitrelli says. “We’re also celebrating the return of live music in our world. Once something is taken away from you, you realize how much you love and cherish it. I’m going to have the opportunity to put a guitar around my neck very soon and look back at something we thought may be gone forever. It’s going to be a very special year for everyone onstage and in the audience.”

Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Wed, 7:30pm, $36+
SAP Center, San Jose

no comments
Add your comment

Back to top
istanbul escort - istanbul escort - istanbul escort - istanbul escort - istanbul escort - istanbul escort -
dubai escorts - dubai escorts - dubai escorts - dubai escorts -
istanbul escort - istanbul escort - istanbul escort - istanbul escort - istanbul escort - istanbul escort -
dubai escorts - dubai escorts - dubai escorts - dubai escorts
istanbul escort - istanbul escort - istanbul escort - istanbul escort - istanbul escort - istanbul escort -