Photos by: Diane Fleischman
Review by: Janel Spiegel
95.1 ZZO & Y102 PRESENTS:
GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS EVE
Trans-Siberian Orchestra Best of TSO & MORE 2022
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2022.
An Unforgettable Night
ALLENTOWN!!! ARE YOU OUT THERE? WE ARE INDEED HERE! That was echoed by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra to make sure we were all having fun.
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra felt otherworldly… It was breathtaking, mesmerizing. They utilized every part of the PPL Center. The stages moved, the sets were captivating with beautiful pyrotechnics, lasers, and sound that was perfect. They played everything from “The Lost Christmas Eve”, “Music Box Blues”, “First Snow” (it did indeed snow inside the PPL Center, thanks to some magic.), “Promises to Keep”, “Child of the Night/A Last Illusion”, “Madness of Men”, “Mad Russian’s Christmas”, “The Snow Came Down”, “Requiem (The Fifth), “If I Go Away”, a Savatage cover, and dedicated to Paul O’Neill sang by Kayla Reeves, gosh it was beautiful. Paul O’Neill was the founder, the O.G., if you will.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms ice rink was covered for Trans-Siberian concert today, and tonight. They played two, yes, TWO SOLD-OUT shows for a memorized, enthusiastic crowd. Chris Caffery started the show and asked the veterans to stand up. He was also rocking a Phantoms jersey. My section had quite a few veterans, and several of us wound up thanking the gentleman that sat next to me for his service. Thank you again for your service. Also, Mike Portnoy was in attendance tonight.
I’m sitting in the parking deck right as I type some of this out. I’m listening to the familiar sounds of the city, the cars leaving the parking deck, horns honking, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra weaving in and out as cars pass by to exit the parking deck. I talked to so many people tonight. People were so in awe of what they saw, and heard. Not only are they talented, each one of them was so into every song, and playing together in synch.
The storyteller, Bryan Hicks came out onstage, and he is captivating. He shares the first part of the show, and tells the story for the music.
This SHOW. THIS SHOW. I’ve NEVER in my life seen a show that was so interactive, and alive. They made use of the entire PPL CENTER. The band was in the back of the PPL Center, they were ABOVE US. YES, I said, ABOVE. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is magic. They are dedicated, passionate, intense, and you can head bang to Christmas music. If you’re a music fan and a concert fan, this is above and beyond incredible.
Let’s discuss the band, the musicians, and singers. So much talent on one stage. Caleb Johnson singing, it was beyond breathtaking. The musical director, Derek Wieland, Erika Jerry singing, I was moved to tears. Gabbie Rae, Georgia Napolitano.
Jeff Plate on drums. The incomparable, Mr. Joel Hoekstra on Guitar, John Brink on vocals, Mee Eun Kim on Keyboards, Robin Borneman singing, his voice was incredible.
Roddy Chong was leading strings and all over the PPL Center along with the Bass player, Tony Dickinson who was just so into each song. The entire band just flowed so well together. Russell Allen, may we take a moment to talk about Russell Allen, Oh my GOSH! The vocals… it was like Meatloaf and Neil Diamond said, let’s let this gentleman sing, and he did. He sang. Russell Allen, thank you for singing.
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra crew did such a good job. I met one of their crew members’ moms, shout out to Joseph who will be working on the West Coast show. Joseph’s mom was so excited and screaming just as loud as the rest of us.
A beautiful moment came when they performed “If I Go Away”, It was a “lighter moment” or now, a cell phone flashlight moment. A bunch of us echoed, “this is a lighter moment.” When you looked around, the entire PPL Center was glowing from cell phone flashlights. It was a beautiful concert moment, a sea of lights and people just having an amazing experience together. People from all walks of life enjoyed this music. There was so much joy and happy energy. You could feel the intensity from people, the happiness, and the lifelong fans, the new fans, those of us that never saw them live before. I was in awe.
If you have never seen Trans-Siberian Orchestra live, YOU MUST go to a show. Go see them. Each song was a story, a beautiful story to go along with the most elaborate, beautiful music ever. They paid homage to the beloved Paul O’ Neill, the founder and O. G., if you will. Chris Caffery is full of energy; his voice is soothing, and I could listen to him talk all day and night. Joel Hoekstra (Guitar) had a smile the entire night. He was interacting with the fans and completely in-tune with the music. The entire band was just awesome. Tony Dickinson leading the “Mad Russian’s Christmas”. He was all over the stage, and full of energy, head-banging like he was just chilling at a SLAYER concert with the rest of us.
It was more than just a performance. It was a production, an elaborate, delicate, booming production, with beautiful lighting. Musicians, bands, singers, take notes… Seriously. I’ve never seen Trans-Siberian Orchestra live before, and it kind of makes me sad. This past year has been difficult, hectic, chaotic, crazy, grateful, happy, fun, wild. It was all sorts of things. The PPL Center and music played a big role as usual. The Allentown Police Department looking out for everyone, making sure people get across the streets. The PPL Center crew, and all the people that work so hard to make all of this magic happen.
I can’t wait for next year, I’m beyond excited to see what comes next. To see who else visits us in the Lehigh Valley. I sure hope the Trans-Siberian Orchestra comes back. Chris Caffery truly, TRULY made this show wonderful. I realize that there is an entire team, a crew that has to set up such an elaborate stage, bring instruments inside and take them back outside. They must load and unload from state to state. It’s a lot of work. I’ve been going to concerts since I’m a kid, I’ve watched the biggest bands in the world load and unload equipment and help their crews, I’ve watched the smallest happily carry everything outside to a van and still rock.
The variety of music from this past was unreal. The 90’s concert, MusikFest, The MELVINS (They made the whole Arts Quest building vibrate.)
That’s what music does, it brings people together, it makes you feel things that you can’t even describe in words, it makes you think of people that you love. Family, friends, friends at those special places that frequent. The one thing I noticed is the joy and how grateful each person seemed. They could have performed and just left, they could have done anything, and it would been incredible, but they went ABOVE and beyond. They lifted the barrier so high; I think it’s up in space now.
Christmas is so much more than just gifts and trying to fight the hustle and bustle. It’s being together, its finding peace, listening to music, inviting Krampus to visit sometimes or Santa? The singers also put everything into the performance. They sang and you could feel every note and word in your soul. It was as if they were singing to each one of us individually yet collectively, we all knew.
I’m FOREVER grateful to The Valley Ledger, PPL Center, Kayla, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra for this opportunity. I’m grateful that writing has been a part of my life for what seems like a lifetime. I’m grateful to the Lehigh Valley and the music fans out there that love a concert just as much as I do. I could turn and talk to any person and I could turn and start singing with anyone. They knew the words; they were conducting right along with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. That was an experience of a lifetime. I know I had family attend the earlier show. (Also, a Veteran, so thank you for your service always.)
AND SHOUT OUT TO SOUND MAN BRYAN HARTLEY FOR HIS AMAZING JOB!!!
The ICONIC MIKE PORTNOY also attended the show tonight.
JANET JACKSON IS COMING TO THE PPL CENTER ON MAY 18, 2023
JOURNEY – FREEDOM TOUR IS FEBRUARY 4, 2023