TSO honors spirits of late founder and bassist with holiday spectacle

By JULIA ANN WEEKES
NH Weekend Editor
November 22. 2017 2:38PM
Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO), set to bring its latest tour to the SNHU Arena in Manchester for shows at 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, is paying tribute to two band mates who died unexpectedly earlier this year.

The updated version of the theatrical metal opera “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” will pay homage to the group's late creator, composer and lyricist Paul O'Neill, who died at 61 this past April from a combination of prescription medication he was taking for a chronic illness, and longtime bassist Dave Z, who died at 38 in a traffic accident in July.

Over the past 20-plus years, TSO has become the multi-platinum, musical powerhouse behind popular holiday tour across the United States.

New Hampshire has been a part of that tradition for more than a dozen years; TSO first played the downtown arena here in the Queen City in 2014.

TSO's winter tour is an updated presentation of “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” which is scheduled to do more than 100 shows in 60 cities before its last 2017 performance on Dec. 30.

“Every note and every lyric is something that Paul had written; 99 percent of (this year's show) is Paul's design. Everything that you see on that stage is a tribute to the man's genius,” the band said in announcing the series of winter performances.

TSO's tour will be a celebration of the artistry of O'Neill, who formed the “rock theater” group in 1996 and served in many capacities, including producer, composer and lyricist.

In the months before his death, O'Neill worked tirelessly with his close-knit team preparing a new take on “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” about a runaway who takes shelter in an abandoned theater, where she meets ghosts of the stage's past.

In postings on social media in June, the band said, “While all of us, the members of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra family, are heartbroken by the tragic loss of our friend and leader Paul O'Neill, we are determined to carry on the rock theater project to which he dedicated his life.

“Paul always talked about how he saw TSO as both an idea and ideal that would continue long after he stepped off the ‘flight deck' - his name for the stage. We hope to continue his work of providing a timeless, multi-generational tradition like those created by his idol Charles Dickens,” the band said in tour announcements.

Based on TSO's multi-platinum DVD and long-running PBS fundraiser, the “Ghosts of Christmas Eve” rock opera features the fan favorites “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Good King Joy,” “Christmas Canon,” “Music Box Blues,” “This Christmas Day,” “Promises To Keep” and the signature TSO tune “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24.”

O'Neil helped to write “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24,” a driving instrumental work that incorporates elements of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Carol of the Bells” with pounding drums and keyboards and wailing guitars.

It's all about rocking out and goodwill. Following the loss of longtime bassist Zablidowsky about three months after O'Neill's death, the band on social media asked fans to take a moment to do something kind: “For fans who would like to make additional donations in Paul or Dave's names, TSO suggests you do something unusually kind or generous for someone less fortunate or for someone who could just use a helping hand.”

Zablidowsky also performed with bands Adrenaline Mob and ZO2.


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