December 10, 2000
I have to say that I was a little worried about how TSO would be received at the Dayton show, since frankly Southwest Ohio isn't exactly a great scene for hard rock, but I was really pleased at both the turnout and the enthusiasm of the crowd. There were a handful of folks who may have heard one or two songs on the radio and not known what they were in for (the elderly couple in front of us with fingers in ears come to mind), but I would say at least half the crowd seemed pretty up on TSO.
I ran into Chris Caffery trying to sneak through the lobby unnoticed on the way in, and we spoke briefly. He really is a very nice, genuine guy. (My wife admitted to staring the whole time we spoke.)
Overall, I thought the performance was much tighter than opening night in Cleveland. The sound quality was not so hot, but it's sort of a spartan venue, and the acoustics aren't very good. At times, the vocals were a little lost. For those that already know all the words, no big deal, but people trying to follow the story lyrically may have been a bit lost here and there. Other than that, it was an excellent performance. It seems as if the company is really starting to mesh on stage. It was noticeable in a lot more interplay among the musicians, especially Chris and Dave Z.
Getting Alex Skolnick for this tour was really a coup - he's just a fabulous, versatile lead. (When the Cleveland show last week started, like everyone else I didn't recognize the new clean-cut Alex, although the little white patch in the hair rang a bell.... I showed my wife the pictures from the Handful of Rain CD notes when we got home, and she had a really hard time believing it was the same guy.) Is there any chance that Alex will be Al Pitrelli's replacement in Savatage? Please?
Chris was without a doubt a great choice to act as leader on the stage. His interplay with the crowd is really excellent - he does a great job of involving the crowd in the performance. I also love to watch Chris play - the emotion that comes out in his live performance is riveting.
The only real complaint I have about the entire tour is that Joe Cerisano, singing the role of the father in "Ornament" and "This Christmas Day" is no Tom Faresse... he just doesn't have the power that you get used to in listening to Tom on CD. During the faster stuff near the end of "This Christmas Day", Cerisano seems very hesitant. When he did it last week in Cleveland, I just assumed he had a brain fart and lost his place, but he did it exactly the same way last night. It sounds almost like he's unsure of the lyrics and sort of mumbles them, and for me it really diminishes the emotional impact of a very important part of the story. I guess you can't have everything.
There were a couple of things different about this show, and I have no idea why. "The Snow Came Down" was missing from the set list, and Daryl Pediford did not join in on guitar for "Christmas Eve/ Sarajevo 12/24". That slightly diminished the power of that piece, but just a bit.
Some of the highlights as I see it:
* In my opinion, the Christmas piece that comes off best live is "O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night". I absolutely love the duel solo effect: Chris taking the solo on the "O Come.." part, and Alex taking over for "O Holy Night". This piece just embodies a large part of what makes TSO so great: taking beautiful Christmas standards and turning them into powerful rock pieces.
* I was very pleased that Chris gave some credit and a big thank you to Jon Oliva (not present) when introducing the band. I find it continually troublesome the way Jon gets overlooked by the mainstream media in their treatment of TSO. Without the partnership of Jon, Paul and Bob Kinkel, obviously none of this would have ever happened. To read about TSO, you would think that Paul O'Neill is solely responsible for all creative aspects, and he just threw together a group of studio musicians and singers. I've never once seen an article or review mention that TSO is essentially Savatage accompanied by an orchestra and singers. (Yet when Metallica released a CD with orchestral accompaniment, it was treated as the most revolutionary idea since the solid-bodied electric guitar. Media sucks)
* Once again, Daryl was by far the vocal standout. His power and soul are just indescribable unless you see him in person.
* One of the real highlights is the way "Old City Bar" is performed as a duet with Alex on acoustic, and Steve Broderick singing. It's a very emotional song, and last night my wife was literally moved to tears. Looking around the hall, I'm sure she was not the only one.
*It was really great to see Mark Wood get up from the string section and roam the stage during "Mozart". What a fabulous musician, and what a dynamic stage presence! His interaction with Chris, Alex and Dave Z was really great. (By the way, check out Mark's web site at http://www.markwoodmusic.com/. Very impressive.)
* I can't emphasize enough how unbelievable Alex is on "Last Illusion" (i.e. "Flight of the Bumblebee"). This is an extremely difficult piece, and it was done flawlessly.
* The lighting effects throughout were striking, particularly on "Last Illusion" and "First Snow".
I hold the TSO CD's in such high esteem that I was skeptical as to whether the live shows would surpass the CD's, and I was amazed to find out that they do, by a lot. Thanks guys for adding a meaningful new holiday tradition for our family!
Review # 2
>We started our journey for TSO,
TSO East is who we would see,
Jeff Plate on drums,
After the show they were all in a row,
As we were leaving and elderly man was grieving,
This poem it really does blow,
I have pictures on my website: Dayton Photos