December 23, 2000
Tabernacle - Atlanta, GA
I have something of a history with Savatage. Way back on POWER OF THE NIGHT (1985), I was the resident headbanger on WUNH-FM, (University of New Hampshire) and did a phone interview with the Olivas. (We still miss ya, Criss.) At the time, I was playing the hell out of "Hard For Love."
Flash forward 15 years. What to say, what to say? There is something about the last night of a tour. I first learned this watching Indigo Girls wrap up the SWAMP OPHELIA tour in July of 1994. The band is loose, there's an excitement in the air, and everyone wants to go home on an up note. And the West Wing of TSO took that concept to a whole new level.
It is one thing to watch a concert. It's another, more enjoyable thing to watch a group of people who not only excel at what they do, but are truly passionate about it.
The presentation of Christmas Eve & Other Stories was flawless and awe-inspiring. Having directed a straight-up adaptation of CE&OS the last two years as my church's main Christmas pageant (5 piece band, 10 piece drama cast, two choirs, handbells, and 4 vocal soloists), I found myself not only singing along, but narrating along as well! The band was into it, and so was the crowd. There were even some very funny moments, particularly when Tommy started cracking up trying to start "Old City Bar." Ya see, one of the crew had placed a rather gaudy sombrero on Jorge's head as he played. It was wonderful! That humor would be a big part of the entire night.
After the CE&OS portion, everyone let their hair down, and the real fun started. A great mix of Christmas Attic, Beethoven, and even the GRINCH track! Among the highlights: Watching Kay crooning "Music Box" to a rubber chicken (and cracking up through most of it), and then having to deal with a battery-operated mouse that the crew unleashed. Neat seque into the Fleetwood Mac tune "Landslide" in the middle as well.
It was also pure joy to see Jorge and Damon attack "Last Illusion." Face it, it doesn't get much better than watching two awesome axe-slingers play "can you top this?" to "Flight of the Bumblebee."
I think the unsung hero of the night was Valerie Vigoda, the electric violinist and conductor of the string section. The strings from The Peachtree Philharmonic first saw the music at 3pm, and then at 8pm, they're up and running. Impressive!
At the final curtain call, the crew unleashed a blistering Silly String attack that left the stage covered. It was a wonderful capper to a great evening.
It was also a real treat to speak to everyone after the show. How refreshing to see a group of musicians really connect with the audience both on and off stage. Everyone in the band seemed really blown away by the reception they received from the crowd.
All in all, a fantastic show. The Tabernacle was a great venue for this performance, but I have a feeling next year's tour will likely land in The Fox theatre, as word gets around. Might be a tough schedule around Atlanta Ballet's "Nutcracker", but TSO & The Fox are made for each other. Can't wait for next year. Here's hoping "Beethoven" lands in Atlanta before then.