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Kelly Clarkson – Wrapped in Red [Review]

Kelly-Clarkson-Wrapped-in-Red

Kelly Clarkson – Wrapped in Red
2013, RCA Records
Buy the album

1. “Wrapped in Red”
2. “Underneath the Tree”
3. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
4. “Run Run Rudolph”
5. “Please Come Home for Christmas (Bells Will Be Ringing)”
6. “Every Christmas”
7. “Blue Christmas”
8. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
9. “Winter Dreams (Brandon’s Song)”
10. “White Christmas”
11. “My Favorite Things”
12. “4 Carats”
13. “Just for Now”
14. “Silent Night”

This will be the first time and probably only time (unless she releases another Christmas album) I’ll ever review a Kelly Clarkson album. I actually don’t mind Kelly Clarkson. She’s adorable, seems much more down to earth and girl-next-door than your normal pop star and her songs aren’t terrible and some even have a rock edge to them. I don’t own any of her albums but she’s tolerable. My only issue is she keeps dying her hair blonde! I don’t think it suits her. She’s much prettier as a brunette.

Anyway…

Five of the songs here are originals: “Wrapped in Red”, “Underneath the Tree” (which was released as the lead single), “Every Christmas”, “Winter’s Dreams (Brandon’s Song)” and “4 Carats”. They’re all pretty good songs. “Wrapped in Red” has an upbeat 1960s vibe to it. Reminds me of The Ronettes. “Underneath the Tree” is a modern holiday classic that brings to mind Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas album. “Every Christmas” seems like a modern retelling of “Baby, Please Come Home for Christmas” while “Winter’s Dreams (Brandon’s Song)” is what I call “American Eagle music”. Something that you’d hear playing at hipster stores like Old Navy or Aeropostale. “4 Carats” is a modern pop number.

The rest of the album is mostly comprised of old standards that are dusted off by Clarkson’s powerful vocals. We already know these songs are good. The question is always does the vocalist and does the arrangement do them justice? The answer is yes. Everyone else agrees too because the album was a success right out of the gate. It debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 and has already been certified platinum.

With Wrapped in Red, Kelly Clarkson has turned in a classy holiday album that I’m sure I’ll revisit over the years. She is truly the only good thing to ever come out of American Idol.

Highlights: “Wrapped in Red”, “Underneath the Tree”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “Every Christmas”, “White Christmas”

http://www.kellyclarkson.com/
http://www.facebook.com/kellyclarkson

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Upon the Winter Solstice [Review]

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Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Upon the Winter Solstice
2013, Atlantic Records/Rhino Custom Products

1. A Mad Russian’s Christmas
2. Promises to Keep
3. The Christmas Day
4. First Snow
5. Midnight Christmas Eve
6. Dream Child (A Christmas Dream)
7. Music Box Blues
8. The Snow Came Down
9. Faith Noel
10. Remember
11. What Child Is This?
12. Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness)

Upon the Winter Solstice is a compilation album that was released exclusively at Kohl’s Department Stores during the 2013 holiday season. 100% of the proceeds go to the Kohl’s Cares charity to support kids’ health and education. Copies can be bought here and for only $5, you can’t go wrong by purchasing some TSO music while helping out a charity.

This is not to be confused with the recently released Tales of Winter: Selections from the TSO Rock Operas compilation which covers all five TSO albums and one EP. So far, that’s an album that’s only been released in Europe anyway. Upon the Winter Solstice focuses solely on the group’s first three Christmas releases (known as the Christmas Trilogy): Christmas Eve and Other StoriesThe Christmas Attic and The Lost Christmas. Each album is represented with four songs.

Some of the band’s most famous tracks like “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” and “Christmas Canon” are not included but you still get fantastic numbers such as “A Mad Russian’s Christmas” (one of my favorite TSO tracks), “First Snow”, “What Child Is This?” and “Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness)”.

If you’re not familiar with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, this is a great way to get introduced to them while doing some good in the process. This is also a great pick up for someone such as myself who doesn’t (yet) own their first three Christmas albums.

www.trans-siberian.com
www.facebook.com/TSO

Rod Stewart – Merry Christmas, Baby [Review]

Rod Stewart – Merry Christmas, Baby (Deluxe Edition)
2012, Verve Music Group

1. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
2. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
3. Winter Wonderland
4. White Christmas
5. Merry Christmas, Baby
6. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
7. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
8. Blue Christmas
9. Red-Suited Super Man
10. When You Wish Upon A Star
11. We Three Kings
12. Silent Night
13. Auld Lang Syne
Bonus Tracks
14. What Child Is This
15. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
16. Silver Bells

Producer: David Foster & Rod Stewart

For the past decade Rod Stewart has been content to become a crooner covering the “great American songbook” as well as Motown and rock ‘n’ roll staples. Despite having said in the past that he would never do a Christmas album, it was really only a matter of time before he did just that. Rod isn’t a rock star or a pop star anymore. He’s a crooner in the tradition of Crosby, Sinatra and Martin (just as Michael Buble is). You can’t be a crooner and not do a holiday album.

Rod has not been taking any chances in the past decade when covering the materials of others. The songs are played faithfully and in their traditional big-band fashion just with Rod’s raspy vocals laid over. A few exceptions would be songs like “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” or “Winter Wonderland” where the tempo is a bit slower. It’s easy listening background music at a Christmas party. Not that I’m complaining.

These songs are classics for a reason and in my opinion they don’t need to be remixed or refashioned into flamenco, country and dance songs. Just give someone with a great voice the mic and let’em sing. That’s exactly what’s been done with Merry Christmas, Baby.

As standard, there’s a few cameos on this album. Michael Buble appears on “Winter Wonderland”, Cee-Lo Green lends a hand on “Merry Christmas, Baby” and Mary J. Blige duets with Rod on “We Three Kings”.

While I can’t say I’ve ever really followed Rod’s career, he’s always had a great distinctive voice so it’s wonderful to hear to him put his vocal stamp on these timeless classics. There’s a couple of songs I didn’t really care for though. “Red-Suited Superman” being one and I felt the inclusion of “When You Wish Upon a Star” was out of place. Why not just save that for the next volume of his Great American Songbook series? That’s not really a Christmas song at all.

In any event, this is a good easy-listening Christmas album that’s well worth picking up for Chrirstmas traditionalists.

Highlights: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “Winter Wonderland”, “White Christmas”, “Silent Night”, “Auld Lang Syne”, “What Child Is This”

www.rodstewart.com
www.facebook.com/rodstewart

Buy the album at Amazon.com

John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John – This Christmas [Review]

John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John – This Christmas
2012, Universal Music Enterprises

1. Baby It’s Cold Outside
2. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
3. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
4. This Christmas
5. Silent Night
6. The Christmas Waltz
7. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
8. Winter Wonderland
9. White Christmas
10. I Think You Might Like It
11. The Christmas Song
12. Deck the Halls
13. Auld Lang Syne/Christmas Time Is Here

Okay, this project sounded too campy to pass up. I mean, just look at that album cover! It’s a complete sugar overload of Christmas cookies and they embrace it. The pull is that you’re getting to hear John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John sing together 34 years after they first teamed in the movie Grease. And they’ve chosen to reunite over an album’s worth of classic Christmas songs. Somehow, it seems right.

I wasn’t sure what exactly was going to be going on with this album. Would the songs be played traditionally or would they shake things up? Well, it’s a bit of both. For example, for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” the male & female roles are reversed. Nice twist. “Silent Night” starts off with a flute and features some nice violin work as well.

There is only one song on the entire album that I am not a fan of and that’s only because I’ve never been a fan of this song: “This Christmas”. I just don’t like that song, no matter which artist is playing it. There is one original song here: “I Think You Might Like It”. It’s Christmas meets Grease. I think I might like it. It’s a true guilty pleasure.

There’s a few guest spots as well: Barbara Streisand (“I’ll Be Home For Christmas”), James Taylor (“Deck The Halls”), Kenny G (“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”), Cliff Richard (“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”) and Tony Bennett (“Winter Wonderland”).

I’m a fool for Christmas standards and as long as you don’t stray too far away from the traditional versions, I’m going to like what I’m hearing. Olivia’s voice is just as good as ever and John does a good job as well. They both really seem to be enjoying themselves on this project.

If you ever wanted to hear Danny & Sandy singing Christmas tunes, pick this album up. It’s a fun kitschy romp.

Highlights: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, “Silent Night”, “The Christmas Waltz”, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “Winter Wonderland”, “I Think You Might Like It”, “The Christmas Song”

http://www.travolta.com
http://olivianewton-john.com

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Richard Marx – Christmas Spirit [Review]

Richard Marx – Christmas Spirit
2012, Zanzibar Records/TourDeForce Productions

1. The Christmas Song
2. Christmas Spirit
3. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
4. Let There Be Peace On Earth
5. O Come All Ye Faithful
6. Little Drummer Boy
7. O Holy Night
8. What Child Is This
9. Silent Night
10. Christmas Mornings
11. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
12. White Christmas
13. Alleluia

Musicians:
Richard Marx – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Piano, Backing Vocals
Jerry McPherson – Guitar
Matt Scannell – Guitar
Mark Hill – Bass
Steve Brewster – Drums
Will Sayles – Drums
Michael Omartian – Piano
Jason Webb – Piano
Kenny Loggins – Lead Vocals (“Let There Be Peace On Earth”)
Sara Watkins – Lead Vocals (“Silent Night”)
Sara Niemitz – Lead Vocals (“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”)

Producer: Richard Marx

I’m a sucker for Christmas albums and Christmas in general. I don’t care who knows it. I’m also a sucker for Richard Marx. Great voice, great songwriter, he’s written some of the greatest rock/pop songs of all time. Everyone should at least own one of his greatest hits compilations.

Anyway, when I found out Richard Marx was releasing a Christmas album, I knew I had to check this out. There are some artists that toss out a holiday album as a cheap & lazy way to cash in on the holiday cheer of an unsuspecting public but that’s not what we get with Christmas Spirit. To be fair though, “Christmas Spirit”, “O Holy Night”, “Silent Night”, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” & “Alleluia” all appeared on Marx’s The Christmas EP in 2011.

The album is named after one of the album’s original Marx-penned songs. And it’s a good one. In fact, “Christmas Spirit” is one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s upbeat and sounds like something that could’ve come from Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas album. It’s a contemporary Christmas classic, in my opinion. The second original track, “Christmas Mornings”, sounds like a classic Marx ballad to me.

The rest of the album is full of holiday standards which are sometimes played traditionally and sometimes not. “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day” becomes even more of a haunting ballad in the hands of Richard Marx. There are now two truly great versions of this song: Bing Crosby’s and now Richard Marx’s. “Little Drummer Boy” is another song that has received a soft rock/pop makeover. This is really the only song on the album I find myself skipping over. It’s way too “light” sounding for me (and, yes, I know I’m discussing Christmas songs here).

Other songs such as “The Christmas Song”, “White Christmas”, “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” are played pretty faithfully but still done quite well. I don’t mind hearing traditional Christmas songs played straight. For me, it has more to do with who is singing the song and it’s great hearing Richard Marx put his stamp on these timeless classics.

Christmas Spirit is a new holiday classic that is sure to get a lot more play in my house around the holidays as the years go on. Even radio seems to agree with me as I’ve already heard “Little Drummer Boy” numerous times on one of the local stations that is playing Christmas songs up until the New Year. I think they’ve played “Christmas Spirit” as well. The album is well worth picking up.

There is also an exclusive edition at Target that includes four bonus tracks: “Blue Christmas”, “Silver Bells”, “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”.

Highlights: “The Christmas Song”, “Christmas Spirit”, “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day”, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “O Holy Night”, “Silent Night”, “Christmas Mornings”, “White Christmas”

richardmarx.com
www.facebook.com/richardmarxmusic

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night) [Review]

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)
2012, Universal Republic Records

1. Winter Palace
2. Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)
3. I Had A Memory
4. Someday
5. Time You Should Be Sleeping

Though TSO has remained a popular and thriving annual holiday season touring group since their inception, it’s been 8 years since they’ve released any new holiday music (their last release, Night Castle, featured their usual brand of symphonic/progressive rock but was a concept album that had nothing to do with Christmas).

As has become standard with TSO, I find myself enjoying the instrumentals much more than I do the songs with vocals. TSO always uses great singers but sometimes I feel like the vocals just make the songs way too pompous for their own good. So, it’s no surprise that my two favorite tracks on the album are the two instrumentals: “Winter Palace” and “Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)”. They are classic TSO songs. Great, heavy and upbeat Christmas tunes.

The remaining three tracks are the typical somber and sentimental ballads that TSO (over)fill their albums & live shows with. Decent tracks but as I’ve said, it’s the instrumentals where TSO really gets to flex their metal muscles. I recommend this EP for all TSO fans and fans of Christmas music in general. I’m hoping this is just a holdover to help promote the group’s 2012 winter tour and that a full album of Christmas music will be coming in 2013.

Having seen TSO twice (during their 2009 winter tour and again for their Beethoven’s Last Night 2011 tour), I was hoping they would be hitting my area again this year but no such luck.

Highlights: “Winter Palace”, “Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night)”

www.trans-siberian.com
www.facebook.com/TSO

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Buckcherry – Christmas Is Here

Buckcherry – Christmas Is Here [single] (2010, Eleven Seven Music)

1. “Christmas Is Here” … 3:10

Band:
Josh Todd – Lead Vocals
Keith Nelson – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Stevie D. – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jimmy Ashhurst – Bass, Backing Vocals
Xavier Muriel – Drums, Percussion

“Christmas Is Here” is an exclusive digital single that was released in November 2010 just in time for the holiday season. I bought my copy through iTunes but it’s available at all major digital music stores.

There’s really not a whole lot to say about this single other than I like it a lot. I’m a huge fan of Christmas music (mostly the traditional tunes sung by crooners like Crosby, Sinatra, Cole, Como, Martin, Mathis and even Michael Buble) so when I found out Buckcherry was releasing a Christmas song I was very excited to check it out since BC is one of my favorite bands.

Honestly though I wasn’t expecting much, thinking this was basically going to be a throwaway track but I loved the song upon first listen. It’s not a rockin’ Christmas song like “Run Rudolph Run” or “Jingle Bell Rock”, instead BC takes a jingle jangle mid-tempo pace. It’s a laid back, feel good Christmas rock ‘n’ roll song. I think a lot of contemporary Christmas songs fall flat but “Christmas Is Here” is a modern classic and a song I’ll be playing for many holidays to come. Makes me feel all warm ‘n’ fuzzy inside and positive about the entire season and isn’t that what a great Christmas song should do? I hope it’ll be issued as a bonus track at some point on a CD.

So, is there anything these guys can’t do? Kick-ass rockers, great ballads and now great Christmas music. Best band from the last 15 years easily.

www.buckcherry.com
www.facebook.com/buckcherry
www.twitter.com/buckcherry

Buy ‘Christmas Is Here’ from Amazon.com

TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA – Night Castle

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Night Castle (2009, Atlantic Records)

DISC 1
1.”Night Enchanted” (5:46)
2. “Childhood Dreams” (4:25)
3. “Sparks” (6:00)
4. “The Mountain” (4:53)
5. “Night Castle” (3:57)
6. “The Safest Way Into Tomorrow” (4:57)
7. “Mozart And Memories” (5:16)
8. “Another Way You Can Die” (3:54)
9. “Toccata-Carpimus Noctem” (4:01)
10. “The Lion’s Roar” (4:35)
11. “Dreams We Conceive” (5:12)
12. “Mother And Son” (0:40)
13. “There Was A Life” (9:35)

DISC 2
1. “Moonlight And Madness” (5:04)
2. “Time Floats On” (3:37)
3. “Epiphany” (10:56)
4. “Bach Lullaby” (0:49)
6. “Father, Son & Holy Ghost” (6:48)
7. “Remnants Of A Lullaby” (3:10)
8. “The Safest Way Into Tomorrow (Reprise)” (1:43)
9. “Embers” (3:53)
BONUS TRACKS
10. “Child Of The Night” (3:29)
11. “Believe” (6:12)
12. “Nutrocker” (4:07)
13. “Carmina Burana” (2:44)
14. “Tracers” (05:47)

Selected Musicians:
Jay Pierce, Tim Hockenberry, Jeff Scott Soto, Rob Evan, Jennifer Cella, Alexa Goddard, Valentina Porter – Lead Vocals
Paul O’Neill, Chris Caffery, Angus Clark, Alex Skolnick, Al Pitrelli, Dave Wittman – Guitars
Chris Altenhoff, Johnny Lee Middleton, Dave Wittman – Bass
John O. Reilly, Jeff Plate, Dave Wittman – Drums
Robert Kinkel, Jon Oliva, Luci Butler, Shih-Yi Chiang, Derek Wieland – Keyboards
Roddy Chong, Anna Phoebe – Violin

Producer: Paul O’Neill & Robert Kinkel

After having seen TSO in concert, I was pretty hyped up on them and bought this album when it came out. They played a number of these songs during the second half of the concert and I loved it because many of these numbers are dark and certainly heavier than their usual Christmas-inspired songs. Sadly, I don’t think this side of TSO will catch on if crowd reaction was any indication on the night I intended. The first act was Christmas, the second act was entirely from this album, I believe, and a small number of people walked out once it was apparent the holiday music was over.

Points to mastermind Paul O’Neill and the rest for having the guts to try something different again and not rely on Christmas. A TSO Christmas album is basically guaranteed to go platinum, but I think gold is a nice goal for this particular album.

The problem I have with TSO is that I think they do too many slow and soft numbers. I don’t like those at all, I zone out. Heavy and faster numbers like “Night Enchanted” and “Another Way You Can Die” are really fun though and I think those two songs maybe some the heaviest songs they’ve done yet as they flirt with heavy metal. “Night Enchanted” is a great way to kick off the album and let people know “this isn’t Christmas”. I’m sure there’s some concept behind this album, but I don’t really care about it. In fact, when it comes to concept albums, the more the story is thrown into my face, the less I care about the album.

In what (I think) is a first, TSO covers Savatage: “The Mountain” is a reworking of “Prelude to Madness” from Hall of the Mountain King, bonus track “Believe” is from Streets: A Rock Opera, parts of “The Lion’s Roar” were taken from “Temptation Revelation” also from Streets: A Rock Opera, “Mozart and Memories” was originally “Mozart and Madness” from Gutter Ballet.

The packaging features some pretty cool illustrations from Greg Hildebrandt. I recognized the artwork from the concert and this album thanks to his days illustrating the Marvel Masterpieces trading card series back in the ’90s!

The first disc is definitely my favorite of the two. That’s where the faster, heavier, harder songs lie. Disc two is almost entirely ballads, though all of the bonus tracks are really good.

Definitely a good album, but it’s an exhaustive listen with way too many slow moment. I wish they would release a 100% symphonic rock album and leave the ballads at home. I would also love for Jon Oliva to sing a tune as well since he helps write a lot of the music anyway.

Highlights: “Night Enchanted”, “The Mountain”, “Night Castle”, “Mozart and Memories”, “Toccata-Carpimus Noctem”, “Moonlight and Madness”, “Child of the Night”, “Nutrocker”, “Carmina Burana”, “Tracers”

www.trans-siberian.com
www.myspace.com/tsoofficial

HALFORD – Halford III – Winter Songs

Halford – Halford III – Winter Songs (2009, Metal God Records)

1. “Get Into the Spirit” … 5:26
2. “We Three Kings” … 4:06
3. “Oh Come O Come Emanuel” … 4:38
4. “Winter Song” … 5:38
5. “What Child Is This?” … 4:27
6. “Christmas For Everyone” … 3:06
7. “I Don’t Care” … 3:14
8. “Light Of The World” … 4:13
9. “Oh Holy Night” … 4:09
10. “Come All Ye Faithful” … 2:27

Band:
Rob Halford – Vocals
Roy Z – Guitar
Mike Chlasciak – Guitar
Mike Davis – Bass
Bobby Jarzombek – Drums
Ed Roth – Keyboard

Producer: Roy Z.

Seven years after the last studio effort from Halford, Rob & Company return with a… CHRISTMAS ALBUM ?! Yes, it’s weird, it’s shocking, it’s true. Even more shocking — it’s actually pretty good.

I was extremely excited to discover 2009 would bring us new Halford music. When Rob rejoined Judas Priest, the band went inactive but there were still countless live albums, reissues and compilations being issued so it is nice to see and hear new material from the group, even if most of it is covers of Christmas songs. I find it odd that Rob chose to let this be the third studio release from Halford though. A Christmas CD? Really? Well, if Twisted Sister can do it, surely the Metal God can!

I’m hearing a lot of resistance to the idea of Rob Halford doing Christmas songs, but maybe some of that is stemming from having his solo band’s name on it (who were one of metal’s most promising acts of this decade, IMO). Maybe Rob wants to turn Halford into the next Trans-Siberian Orchestra? Maybe if he stuck ‘ROB HALFORD’ on the cover instead of just ‘HALFORD’ metalheads could accept it more, though I admit it is a bit of an out there concept to wrap your head around.

Clearing away any preconceived notions I might have had, I’m really enjoying this album. It’s Christmas, it’s hard rock, it’s heavy metal, it’s ROB HALFORD! How can you go wrong? I’m sorry for ever doubting you, Mr. Halford! The original songs (“Get Into the Spirit”, “Christmas For Everyone”, “I Don’t Care”, “Light of the World”) are pretty good, with “Get Into the Spirit” easily being the best of that bunch but what is really surprising is just how good Halford’s take on these traditional Christmas songs can be.

There is no doubt this is the Metal God at work, but unlike some rock/metal acts who do Christmas songs, Halford doesn’t try to impose himself too much over the songs. In short, you’re not going to confuse “Oh Holy Night” or “Come All Ye Faithful” with “Painkiller” or “Resurrection”!

This is a great addition to my growing Christmas rock collection and I have a feeling it’s going to be getting a lot of airtime at home and in my car this holiday season… and for many more to come!

Highlights: “Get Into the Spirit”, “We Three Kings”, “Oh Come O Come Emanuel”, “Winter Song”, “What Child Is This?”, “I Don’t Care”, “Oh Holy Night”, “Come All Ye Faithful”

www.robhalford.com
www.myspace.com/robhalford

Concert Review: Trans-Siberian Orchestra – 11/02/09

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

11/02/09

Breslin Student Events Center at MSU in East Lansing, Michigan

Though I own a TSO album, I never really got into it, but I sure did try to given the Savatage connection. Trans-Siberian Orchestra has always seemed like a group that would be more fun to see live and after last night’s amazing show, that is 100% confirmed. And what better night to go than on my birthday?

This was probably the best concert experience I’ve ever had. The place was a sellout, but TSO definitely brings in a different demographic than Avenged Sevenfold, KISS or Motley Crue does so I didn’t have to worry about any idiots getting on my nerves.

Sometimes when you go to shows, the sound isn’t so well. I’ve seen plenty of rock bands perform with the guitar way too much in the mix and they’re basically all you can hear but last night everything just about perfect. No screeching guitars, no bass or drums that rattled your ears so much you get vertigo, everything was spot on for the most part, but funny enough — I thought the guitars were a tiny bit low in the mix. Other than that minor quibble, guitarists Chris Caffery and Alex Skolnick were amazing all night.

I know people are going to want to know the set list from me, but I can’t tell you that. I’m not familiar enough with their music and I can’t find any other recent set lists online to get an idea, but the first half of the show focused on Christmas and the majority of the second half featured many songs from their latest album Night Castle.

As much as I loved the Christmas stuff, there were quite a few ballads in that portion that kind of bored me. Most of the second half was amazing though, the show got darker and heavier. After the Christmas portion was finished, a number of people began leaving. I guess those old-timers just wanted Christmas music, but you’re only getting half your money’s worth! For a rock/metal fan, the second half was definitely the best.

The stage production was amazing too, probably the best concert I’ve ever seen. Lasers, smoke, “snow”, tons of video screens, flames (green, orange and blue!). It was a great spectacle. I was surprised by how much they were able to fit into Breslin.

Overall, whether you’re a fan of Christmas, symphonies, hard rock or all of the above — TSO is a great way to spend the holidays and fantastic way to get your fix. Highly recommended. I believe this is at least the third year in a row they’ve come to Breslin, if they come again next year, I’ll be sure to be there.

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