There are those who criticize acts like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for being overblown both musically (with its use of a full orchestra and rock band) and thematically (with its rock-opera formats and full CD story lines.)
Some wonder if TSO's music would stand up in a live setting without the act's plethora of special effects.
Say what you will about the TSO music, but there's little room for debate about the ambition of Paul O'Neill, or his desire to deliver the most entertainment bang for the buck. O'Neill is the man who founded the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, writes much of the group's music, has overseen every aspect of the recording and touring and has succeeded to the tune of 5 million TSO albums sold.
In what has become an annual tradition, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is back on the road, performing music from the group's three Christmas rock operas and delivering the biggest spectacle of sight and sound to tour at any point in the year.
"The whole machine on the road now is up to 219 people, which is a lot of people," O'Neill says. "Some of those people who work for us used to work for Pink Floyd."
Still, that experience is a double-edged sword.
"It's funny," O'Neill says, "because one of the guys comes up to me and goes, "Paul, there's a reason why Pink Floyd only toured once every five or 10 years. That's because they were giving (us) time to think of new things.'"
For TSO, there is no such luxury. Once touring ends on Dec. 30, work on the next year's holiday tour starts.
"Basically, Jan. 2, we tear apart everything that was put together for the year before and start to build from scratch," O'Neill says. "That kind of forces us to come up with new ideas and new angles. If you keep the initial structure, there's a temptation to get lazy: "That doesn't look that bad. You know, people won't remember it from last year.'
"But instead, we tear it all apart. And you're going to have to put it together, anyway, so you might as well put it together in a different configuration."
O'Neill founded the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in 1996 around the idea of combining a rock band and symphony to perform, for the most part, rock operas. He found a niche by centering his rock operas around Christmas themes. In 2003, he expanded with Beethoven's Last Night, a rock opera based around the dramatic events that framed the late composer's final days.
The musical program for this year's holiday tour will be similar to the 2005 model. Once again, the first installment of TSO's three-CD holiday trilogy, the 1996 release Christmas Eve & Other Stories, will be the main rock opera of the evening. The second set of the show will feature selections from the group's other two holiday CDs, 1998's The Christmas Attic and 2004's The Lost Christmas Eve, along with songs from Beethoven's Last Night and The Night Castle, a new work that should arrive in stores next spring.
"We're finding [that] people are growing attached to [Christmas Eve & Other Stories]," O'Neill says. "It's become a bit of a tradition. So we're going to let the tradition go on for a little while longer."
Pepsi Center, 1000 Chopper Circle, Denver
Tuesday, Dec. 12, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $36-$51; visit ticketmaster.com.
World Arena, 3185 Venetucci Blvd.
Wednesday, Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $43-$58, visit ticketswest.com