By JOHN BENSON
Special to The Gazette
Letâ€™s cut right to the chase.
What in the world is taking Trans-Siberian Orchestra so long in releasing its next studio album â€œNightcastleâ€?
Promised two years ago and then again last year, the highly anticipated follow-up to the prog-rock outfitâ€™s 2004 album â€œThe Lost Christmas Eveâ€ is quickly becoming their own version of the decade-long awaited Guns Nâ€™ Roses album â€œChinese Democracy,â€ which, mind you, finally hit stores late last month.
Considering Axl Rose got his act together, whatâ€™s the deal with TSO and â€œNightcastleâ€?
â€œNo blow too low, no dig too deep,â€ laughed Paul Oâ€™Neill, calling from Omaha, Neb. â€œOK, obviously â€˜Nightcastleâ€™ has been staggeringly late. It originally was supposed to be a 12-song album, non-rock opera, but as we started to do it, we decided to make it half and half, eight songs each and 16 songs in total. And right now, we are desperately fighting to avoid it from becoming a triple CD. We have three CDs recorded and most of it mixed.â€
While last year fans were tantalized (or tortured) in hearing â€œNightcastleâ€ song â€œOh Fortuna,â€ this yearâ€™s TSO tour, which comes to Cleveland for four shows Dec. 29 and 30 at Quicken Loans Arena, will feature new songs â€œNight Enchanted,â€ â€œChild of the Nightâ€ and â€œFlight of Cassandra.â€ Even though new material is being performed, what guarantee do fans have that â€œNightcastleâ€ will be out in 2009?
â€œItâ€™s taken so long because itâ€™s probably the most ambitious, over-the-top, musically complicated album ever done,â€ Oâ€™Neill said. â€œIt will be at least two CDs and will be kept at a single CD price with packaging to give the fans more bang for the buck. So to me, when it comes out is not as important as the quality.
â€œYou know Pink Floydâ€™s â€˜The Wallâ€™ was late but when it came out nobody cared because they understood it. â€˜Apocalypse Nowâ€™ was supposed to be shot in 12 weeks and that went way over budget and time.â€
While we wonâ€™t (but we could) press Oâ€™Neill on the idea that heâ€™s already comparing â€œNightcastleâ€ to two legendary pieces of work, the real problem seems to be the fact the TSO outfit is built around perfectionism, which now appears to be their Achilles heel.
â€œYou know, we were so lucky last year to have so many special guests in concert do encores with us. Roger Daltrey (The Who) came out for three shows and Paul Rodgers (Bad Company and Queen) was kind enough to do four shows in two days,â€ Oâ€™Neill said. â€œAnd when I listened to those guys, they inspired me to go back and write songs. So weâ€™re constantly trying to improve and make it better. We donâ€™t want to let the people down.â€
As much as the press â€” justifiably â€” calls Oâ€™Neill and company out on the protracted recording and broken promises regarding â€œNightcastle,â€ ultimately itâ€™s the fans that count. While the outfit has sold millions of CDs â€” 1996â€™s â€œChristmas Eve and Other Stories,â€ 1998â€™s â€œThe Christmas Atticâ€ and â€œThe Lost Christmas Eveâ€ â€” itâ€™s TSOâ€™s live show that keeps people happy.
Even though this yearâ€™s tour includes double the pyrotechnics and more high-tech video components than ever before, itâ€™s the intangible and intoxicating wave of bombastic music and intense emotion that offers clarity and Christmas joy for so many. The way Oâ€™Neill talks, itâ€™s like â€œItâ€™s a Wonderful Life: The Musical.â€
â€œIf life is good and you leave the show, life is going to be better,â€ Oâ€™Neill said. â€œIf youâ€™re going through rough times, no matter what is going on in your life, I guarantee you when you walk in through those doors youâ€™ll have nothing but three hours of seeing something new coming at you.
â€œAnd no matter what your problems are, itâ€™s just pure joy and escapism.â€
Who: Trans-Siberian Orchestra
When: 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 29 and 30
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, One Center Court, Cleveland
Tickets: $37 to $47 at Ticketmaster outlets
Info: 330-945-9400 in Akron or www.ticketmaster.com
Benson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.