Last fall, Trans-Siberian Orchestra made the biggest change ever to its annual holiday tour. After having performed its rock opera “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” as the centerpiece of its show for its entire 13-year touring history, founder and band leader Paul O’Neill decided to spotlight a different rock opera.
Instead, Trans-Siberian Orchestra performed “The Lost Christmas Eve,” the 2004 album that was the third and final chapter in the group’s trilogy of Christmas rock operas.
O’Neill didn’t dare talk about it last year, but his decision to switch from “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” to “The Lost Christmas Eve” was not popular with plenty of other people involved in the group’s tours.
“I’ll be quite honest, everybody was against switching from ‘Christmas Eve and Other Stories,’” O’Neill revealed in an early November phone interview. “We never ever intended to tour the first part of the trilogy for 13 years. It just kind of happened. Originally we were going to change it in ‘08. But (booking agency) William Morris freaked out. ‘Paul, with the economy, this is not the time to be experimenting.’ So we didn’t.’”
Essentially what had happened, O’Neill said, is “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” was becoming Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s equivalent to the classic Charles Dickens story, “A Christmas Carol.” “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” was a holiday tradition, a story (and in the case of TSO, also a musical and live concert spectacle) fans looked forward to revisiting every holiday season.
It was a safe, bankable production that was pretty much guaranteed to fill arena seats every November and December.
By 2011, though, the business logic of doing “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” was getting overtaken, in O’Neill’s view, by an artistic concern.
“Dickens got caught in the same trap,” O’Neill explained. “He wrote five books about Christmas and he made his big money back then from reading them in theaters during the holidays. He’d always want to try reading ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’ or one of his other stories, the other novellas, but nobody would ever let him. ... Trans-Siberian was designed to breed change, to constantly grow. But we did actually get painted into that corner.”