Trans-Siberian Orchestra | Texas Review | Ralph Arvesen
Trans-Siberian Orchestra performing during the Ghosts of Christmas Eve at the Frost Bank Center in San Antonio, Texas on December 9, 2023. (Photo: Ralph Arvesen from 2019)

For 2023, TSO brings a completely updated presentation of the unforgettable, multi-generational holiday tradition, “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve.” Over the course of the tour, TSO will visit 62 cities, delivering an impressive 104 performances before concluding on December 30.

A product of the imagination of TSO’s late founder Paul O’Neill, and based on TSO’s multi-platinum CD and TV special, “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” follows the journey of a runaway who breaks into an abandoned vaudeville theater on December 24th. While seeking shelter from the cold, the teen is discovered by the theater’s caretaker who uses the ghosts and spirits from the building’s past to turn her life around.

Following the performance of the rock opera, 2023’s tour also boasts a rocking, blazing, and laser-lit second set containing more of TSO’s greatest hits, fan-favorites, and surprises. In addition to experiencing the story at TSO’s live concerts this year, fans at home can watch a digitally restored “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” on their local PBS station.

“For 27 years you have helped make Paul O’Neill’s TSO stories a part of your holiday tradition. And, for 27 years, our tradition has been to make every year’s tour better than the last for you. 2023 is no exception as this year’s tour will be the best ever. I can’t wait to see our ‘repeat offenders’ out at the shows and look forward to seeing the new faces as well,” said TSO’s music director and lead guitarist Al Pitrelli.

Year-after-year TSO hits the upper reaches of the domestic and worldwide tour charts. Recently, Pollstar published its compiled touring charts for the past 40 years. TSO ranked No. 11 in Tickets Sold and No. 21 in Top Box Office Grosses. In January, Billboard placed TSO at #1 of its December 2022 Boxscore Report. Additionally, at the close of the aughts, the group was ranked at No. 20 on Pollstar’s “Top Tour(s) of the Decade” and No. 25 on Billboard’s “Top Touring Artists of the Decade.”

When Paul O'Neill first conceived Trans-Siberian Orchestra, his goal was as straightforward as it was incredibly ambitious. "The whole idea," he explains, "was to create a progressive rock band that would push the boundaries (of the genre) further than any group before... Way, way further."

With more than 10 million albums sold, TSO has inspired generations of fans to rediscover the multi-dimensional art form of the rock opera. Meanwhile, on the road, they have become one of the world's top acts, with Billboard magazine naming TSO as one of the top touring artists of the past decade -- a $20 million-plus production that has played to over 100 million people in 80+ cities, selling more than $280 million worth of tickets and presenting $11 million to charity.

O'Neill, a New York City native grew up, "with a wide-ranging world of (rock) musical influences." But, O'Neill also soaked up sources such as Broadway musicals, Motown and singer-songwriters such as Jim Croce and Harry Chapin, while authors such as Oscar Wilde and Robert Graves fueled his literary tastes. He began his career playing guitar for touring productions of Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair, then went to work in the late '70s for Leber-Krebs Inc., the Manhattan management company whose clients included Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, AC/DC, Def Leppard, the Scorpions, the New York Dolls, and scores of others. In the '80s, O'Neill became a major concert promoter in Japan as well, but returned to the States to start writing and producing full-time.

O'Neill helmed Aerosmith's Classics Live I and Classics Live II albums before beginning a fortuitous relationship with the band Savatage that led to conceptual pieces such as Hall Of The Mountain King, Gutter Ballet, Streets: A Rock Opera and Dead Winter Dead. Producing introduced O'Neill to Jon Oliva, Bob Kinkel and Al Pitrelli, as well as reconnecting him with legendary studio engineer Dave Wittman, who all became key original collaborators in O'Neill's grand vision - Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

"I wanted to take the very best of all the forms of music I grew up on and merge them into a new style," O'Neill says. "Basically I was building on the work of everybody I worshipped: the rock opera parts from bands like the Who; the marriage of classical and rock from bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Queen; the over-the-top light show from bands like Pink Floyd... I always wanted to do a full rock opera with a full progressive band and at least 18 lead singers."

O'Neill took the idea to Atlantic Records which, to his surprise, went for it and financed the creation of Romanov, which was initially to be TSO's first release. "We were very fortunate," he says. "It was one of the only labels left that still did an 'old school' kind of artist development. My original concept was that we were going to do six rock operas, a trilogy about Christmas and maybe one or two regular albums."
Fan reviews:

High energy Christmas concert. TSO is a great experience for all age groups. Excellent musicians who enjoy what they do and make a concerted effort to involve the audience. It works well. Great visual backdrops, awesome laser light show plus some actual snow fall bring the holiday spirit to life. This production is worth every penny!

Best show we have seen! This was my wife and I's 5th time seeing TSO and my daughters first time, we noticed changes and it made the show even better then any we had seen prior keep up the great work and we will see you again soon.

Fantastic, a very entertaining evening with great music, a story and a laser light show.

The show was amazing! TSO is incredible. Have seen them for 20 years and every time I am amazed. If you have never seen them you don't know what you are missing. Thank you TSO for making the season bright!

TSO is the greatest! I attend a concert every year, or most every year. I love what they do with the many classical pieces that I learned on the piano or played in the orchestra. I would love to hear what TSO would do with Overture of 1812! I think Carol the Bells is my favorite!
Setlist for the show at the Frost Bank Center
  • The Hourglass
  • Mozart/Figaro
  • The Lost Christmas Eve
  • O Come All Ye Faithful / O Holy Night
  • Good King Joy
  • Christmas Dreams
  • Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)
  • Christmas Canon Rock
  • What Child Is This?
  • Music Box Blues
  • First Snow
  • Promises to Keep
  • This Christmas Day
  • Temptation Revelation
  • The Mountain
  • Christmas Jam
  • Joy of Man's Desire / An Angel's Share
  • Christmas Nights in Blue
  • The March of the Kings / Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  • A Mad Russian's Christmas
  • Queen of the Winter Night / Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)
  • This Isn't What We Meant
  • Wizards in Winter
  • Carmina Burana
  • The Snow Came Down
  • Requiem (The Fifth)
  • Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (Reprise)

Trans-Siberian Orchestra was the main act at the Frost Bank Center. They continue across the United States with the last stop at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota on December 30, 2023.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra
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Photos by Ralph Arvesen
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