Trans-Siberian Orchestra multimedia show rocks

The band, combining progressive rock and musical theater, comes to the Nutter Center.



It’s hard to believe now considering Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s two decades of success but the project was not an immediate hit. The massive-concert draw, returning to the Nutter Center in Fairborn on Thursday, Dec. 28, was a slow burn that turned into an enduring blaze.

“It always feels great to get back out on this tour,” said drummer Jeff Plate, who has been with TSO since 1999. “It’s such a great thing that we do. Paul O’Neill created something that has such a positive vibe to it. There’s such positive energy in our show, in the music, in the lyrics and in the stories. The show itself is just spectacular.

“It’s really cool to just be involved,” Plate continued. “You know, I’ve been here all these years and I’ve seen it grow from one box truck to 20 tractor trailers. It still blows my mind.”

O’Neill, TSO’s late founder, worked as a producer for Aerosmith, Savatage and other acts before combining progressive rock and musical theater into a holiday mashup known as Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The group’s debut, “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” (1996), was a symphonic rock opera with a Christmas theme. It wasn’t a massive success but the suits at Atlantic Records recognized the potential. “The Christmas Attic” (1998), the second part of a conceptual trilogy, was also a moderate success initially but the label’s confidence finally paid off.

“In ‘96, TSO really didn’t sell but Atlantic thought we were onto something and told us to keep going,” O’Neill told this writer in 2011. “We turned in ‘Beethoven’s Last Night’ in ‘99 and that’s when we started to tour. By 2001, the band had exploded. By 2004, we were the top five touring band in the world but a lot of that was luck.”



Vision with resonance

O’Neill was being modest because he certainly discovered a musical formula that resonated with audiences. TSO’s expansive multimedia stadium rock-style show has been an ongoing annual concern since the first tour in 1999. The year-end shows have become an annual holiday tradition for several generations of fans, but the impact goes beyond that. TSO blossomed into a multi-million dollar mobile juggernaut and one of the most successful touring acts of the modern era, generating more than $280-million in ticket sales.

The group’s first two releases soon became massive sellers, both eventually being certified platinum. TSO didn’t stop with “Beethoven’s Last Night” (2000), the final part of the holiday trilogy. Live concert footage from the 1999 tour was released on DVD as “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” (2003). Other releases include the albums, “The Lost Christmas” (2004), “Night Castle” (2009) and “Letters from the Labyrinth” (2015), and the EP, “Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)” (2012).

O’Neill passed away in April 2017, but TSO soldiered on. Sometimes when the guiding light is gone, a project can go off the rails quickly. That didn’t happen with this group because O’Neill had it set up in a way where you could carry on.

“This is Paul’s vision,” Plate said. “This is Paul’s creation, obviously, but it goes way beyond that. Every decision came down to Paul but one thing he did over the years was he surrounded himself with some really, really sharp people, and he was very smart in doing so. I’ve been here since the beginning along with Chris Caffery, Al Pitrelli and Johnny Middleton. There are a few others that have been here for a long time.

“We know the drill and what needs to be done,” Plate continued. “We know how this thing operates and how to conduct ourselves. When we lost Paul, I remember sitting on the couch with my wife thinking, ‘Wow, this could be it.’ As soon as things got cleared up a little bit, Paul’s family stepped in and said, ‘No, this is not going to stop. We’re going to keep this going.’ I knew we’d be fine, especially as far as the touring part because of the people he had in place to take care of the business.”



More than ghosts

TSO is on tour with “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve: The Best of TSO and More” until the end of the year, with multiple shows on many days.

“We did ‘The Ghosts of Christmas Eve’ last year but other parts of the show change every year,” Plate said. “Even though the story may stay the same, we usually introduce a new piece of music. We have such a catalog of songs to choose from so it’s a task to come up with new combinations of things for the second half of the show and the intro. This year is also the 25th anniversary of our second album, ‘Christmas Attic,’ so we’ll be highlighting some songs from that one as well.

“You’re never going to see anything like our show,” Plate added. “There are a lot of great shows out there. I’m not taking anything away from anybody, but the TSO show is an experience. It’s something Paul did by design. He wanted it to be sonically and visually awesome and then you throw in the story along with the Christmas themes and you’ve got something that connects with millions and millions of people and passes on from generation to generation.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or


What: Trans-Siberian Orchestra presents “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve: The Best of TSO and More”

Where: Nutter Center, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy., Fairborn

When: 3 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 28

Cost: $37.49-$112.75

More info: 937-775-1000 or

Artist info:

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