For many music fans, catching Trans-Siberian Orchestra's yearly yuletide concert is as much a part of the holiday season as seeing “White Christmas” or “The Nutcracker.”
That's why Paul O'Neill experienced a rare case of nerves at the outset of the progressive rock band's winter tour, which is coming to Chesapeake Energy Arena for two shows Saturday. After 13 years, TSO's founder, producer and writer decided to change rock operas for this holiday season.
“For the Christmas trilogy, we never intended to tour the first one for 13 years in a row. It just kind of happened. And when I told William Morris (Agency, which represents TSO) we were gonna switch to ‘The Lost Christmas Eve,' they were like, ‘No, you can't. This is like “A Christmas Carol.” It's “The Nutcracker.” It's tradition. It's not broken, don't fix it,'” O'Neill said in a phone interview this week from his hometown of New York City.
“I was positive to switch rock operas this winter was the right move, but when your agents are fighting you that hard, you get a little nervous. So I was like buying Tums and Rolaids by the gallon from the pharmacy.”
Instead of retelling “Christmas Eve and Other Stories,” the rock opera based on the band's 1996 debut album, Trans-Siberian Orchestra this season is making “The Lost Christmas Eve” the centerpiece of its stage spectacle, which incorporates a string section, several singers, pyrotechnics, lasers and a light show.
It's easy to understand why the prospect of change would unsettle O'Neill's agents: TSO has played live to more than 9 million people and grossed in excess of $350 million since the band's first tour in 1999. More than 1 million people saw the group in concert in 2011, and the ensemble has sold 8.5 million albums.
“I just thought the story of ‘The Lost Christmas Eve' would resonate better with our fans, especially with what's going on in the world right now,” O'Neill said, referring to the 2004 rock opera based on the third and final LP of the band's Christmas trilogy.
“The underlying theme of ‘The Lost Christmas Eve,' is basically hope and redemption and that it's never too late in anybody's life to change the trajectory of your life,” he added. “It might be my favorite story of the trilogy because there's something about Christmas Eve ... that I've always loved. For some reason, it's the one day of the year where human beings are able to undo mistakes in their lives that they never thought they could undo.”