Trans-Siberian Orchestra lit up Abbotsford

By Jacob Zinn
[contributor]

Who says classical music can’t rock? Not the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, that’s for sure.

The symphonic rockers took the late Ludwig van Beethoven’s greatest works and adapted them to electric guitars, operatic vocals and an awe-inspiring stage show on Saturday night.

Some 3,000 fans of all ages packed into the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre for the band’s brand of so-called rock theatre. The diverse crowd ranged from diehard metalheads in Dio andSlayer T-shirts to well-dressed elderly couples who likely didn’t know what they were in for.

Any indication that the band were going to take it easy on the old folks’ eyes and ears was thrown away as soon as heavy bass drum kicked in and guitarists Al Pitrelli and Chris Caffery strummed their first notes. Lasers and strobes flickered on and off at, well, the speed of light, and wound-cauterizing pyro exploded off the stage, visually stimulating those who weren’t blinded by their immediate presence.

Alternating between storytelling by narrator Bryan Hicks, the band performed all 22 songs off 2000’s Beethoven’s Last Night. The concept album tells the fictional story of the composer’s visit from the devil on the night of his death – March 26, 1827 – in which Satan offers to trade his eternal soul for his 10th symphony. (In actuality, Beethoven’s 10th was unfinished.)

The opening “Overture” takes pieces of the famous “Sonata Pathétique”, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Requiem” and the fourth movement from “Symphony No. 9”. “Mephistopheles” and “What is Eternal” take parts of “Moonlight Sonata” and Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”.

Switching between vocalists Andrew Ross, Ronny Munroe, Chloe Lowery and Rob Evan as the maestro himself, the entire singing section presented an elaborate tale and portrayed every roll so convincingly, you felt like you were there in Beethoven’s home. The backing band, led by headbanging violinist Roddy Chong, sounded pitch perfect and garnered a round of applause for pulling so many strings all night.

The band showed off their exquisite musical abilities, keeping the arena of fans hooked on every note through “Für Elise” and showcasing Caffery’s intricate fingerwork on part of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” during “A Last Illusion”.

By the end of the album, the 600-plus floor-seated fans and the rest in the bowl had heard likely the greatest modern adaptation of classical music, and they found out how he thwarted off the devil. (Spoiler alert: the character of Fate and her son Twist (get it?) trick the prince of darkness into signing a contract that gives him rights to the 10th symphony of another Ludwig van Beethoven.)

Despite the plot holes and lame deus ex machina, the performance was as outstanding as their Vancouver show in 2010. Perhaps most impressive was 19-year-old songstress Kayla Reeves, who belted out the powerful ballad “Someday” and transitioned it into the rock ‘n’ roll door-kicker “Child Unseen”.

But to metal fans, there was something missing: there were no drunken scuffles, no stagedivers or crowdsurfers. There was no energy from the crowd – they were too speechless from the energy onstage.

In the encore, keyboardists Vitalij Kuprij and Mee Eun Kim delivered some eerie organ music on “Toccata – Carpimus Noctem” and “Carmina Burana” (which borrowed from the epic “O Fortuna), both off of 2009’s Night Castle.

The band closed with Caffery’s solo rendition of “O, Canada” to a standing ovation. Fans left hoping that this wasn’t TSO’s last night in Abbotsford, and given the crowd reaction, it likely won’t be.

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