July 24, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Trans-Siberian Orchestra to rock out in Cleveland

Special to The Gazette

Let’s cut right to the chase.

What in the world is taking Trans-Siberian Orchestra so long in releasing its next studio album “Nightcastle”?

Promised two years ago and then again last year, the highly anticipated follow-up to the prog-rock outfit’s 2004 album “The Lost Christmas Eve” is quickly becoming their own version of the decade-long awaited Guns N’ Roses album “Chinese Democracy,” which, mind you, finally hit stores late last month.
Considering Axl Rose got his act together, what’s the deal with TSO and “Nightcastle”?

“No blow too low, no dig too deep,” laughed Paul O’Neill, calling from Omaha, Neb. “OK, obviously ‘Nightcastle’ 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.”

While last year fans were tantalized (or tortured) in hearing “Nightcastle” song “Oh Fortuna,” this year’s TSO tour, which comes to Cleveland for four shows Dec. 29 and 30 at Quicken Loans Arena, will feature new songs “Night Enchanted,” “Child of the Night” and “Flight of Cassandra.” Even though new material is being performed, what guarantee do fans have that “Nightcastle” will be out in 2009?

“It’s taken so long because it’s probably the most ambitious, over-the-top, musically complicated album ever done,” O’Neill said. “It 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.
“You know Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ was late but when it came out nobody cared because they understood it. ‘Apocalypse Now’ was supposed to be shot in 12 weeks and that went way over budget and time.”

While we won’t (but we could) press O’Neill on the idea that he’s already comparing “Nightcastle” 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.

“You 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,” O’Neill said. “And when I listened to those guys, they inspired me to go back and write songs. So we’re constantly trying to improve and make it better. We don’t want to let the people down.”

As much as the press — justifiably — calls O’Neill and company out on the protracted recording and broken promises regarding “Nightcastle,” ultimately it’s the fans that count. While the outfit has sold millions of CDs — 1996’s “Christmas Eve and Other Stories,” 1998’s “The Christmas Attic” and “The Lost Christmas Eve” — it’s TSO’s live show that keeps people happy.

Even though this year’s tour includes double the pyrotechnics and more high-tech video components than ever before, it’s the intangible and intoxicating wave of bombastic music and intense emotion that offers clarity and Christmas joy for so many. The way O’Neill talks, it’s like “It’s a Wonderful Life: The Musical.”

“If life is good and you leave the show, life is going to be better,” O’Neill said. “If you’re going through rough times, no matter what is going on in your life, I guarantee you when you walk in through those doors you’ll have nothing but three hours of seeing something new coming at you.

“And no matter what your problems are, it’s just pure joy and escapism.”

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 ididhear@aol.com.