A few days ago I wrote a post called “The first time” and it was a short story about my first time seeing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert. I have included that post here and I am also going to add to it. This bit will be part of my Sunday Series as well.
See, in December of 2000 when I first saw TSO in concert I was in the early stages of an internal battle that I hope I never see the likes of again. Maybe some where, some day, I will get into that further. Anyways, I drove to Albany, NY to see TSO. I couldn’t wait! I knew every word, nearly every note, of every song on the CD’s. So much so, that I was a bit skeptical of how each note, and how each word would sound live. Obviously, at that time, I didn’t know anything about their sound in live shows. Over the years, hearing many bands play live, sometimes the recording versions of songs were the best versions. I remember thinking that if they were even close to the recorded versions of their songs, this was going to be awesome.
I made my way into the venue. I looked around, taking everything in. I noticed a little bit of merchandise for sale, I noticed people dressed anywhere from a formal night out, to jeans and t-shirts, I noticed there were young couples, older couples, complete families, and rock star wannabe’s. I noticed a diversity in the audience that I don’t remember seeing anywhere else before. I noticed their was a tremendous sense of anticipation among the variety of people in attendance. I found my seat, right in the middle of the balcony. Not too far up, but high enough to see over any railings. My seat was dead center too, which I found, in later shows, is a fantastic place to see the symmetry of the TSO light show. I sat down, eager for the show to start. I remember the band presented a check to a charity before the show. They always do.
Finally the lights went dark. After the brief applause a dark auditorium always receives, a silence came over the crowd. Eerily silent. Anticipation was at an all time high throughout the crowd. Or at least it was with me. This moment in the dark was also a glaring look inward. For as calm and quiet as the balcony was at that moment, the internal war between my character and my reality raged on.
Then the show began. The narration. The deep voice telling the story. Just the way I had read it. The single light shining down from above. A word had not yet been sung and I already knew this was going to be the best show I had ever seen. The narrator, Bryan Hicks, spoke the words … “our story does begin” and with a snap of his fingers the show’s lights first came on. It was a dark curtain of white lights that lit up to look like the night-time sky. It was much simpler then but it served its purpose.
As TSO played song after song, I couldn’t believe how the sound was so much better than I ever imagined. I couldn’t get over the fact that they did play every single note, just as I knew them, but they took the sound to another level. The vocals were stunning! They sounded even better in that theater on a snowy night in Albany, NY, than I could have hoped for.
The emotion coursed through me like a raging river of truth. I recall sitting there in the balcony and literally shaking. I was enjoying the purest sounds of Christmas that I had ever heard. This performance somehow brought the countless, wonderful, Christmas memories of my childhood and the magnificence of this concert together. It was like a bond that had always been there, but I now was able to see it and feel it. I shook with fear. I shook with joy. I shook from the battle in my soul. I shook in disbelief of the perfection I was witnessing on the stage in front of me. Few times in my life had I ever felt such power.
How I ever held myself together through this time was a feat in itself. And I know it was God that pushed me, it was God that helped me keep it together, for it was God’s truths I was at war with. My character, my upbringing, the things I knew in my gut were right, the countless places I could have corrected my direction, these were the things I fought during this time. As if I were lost in the deepest, darkest forest while knowing a couple of difficult, pride relinquishing steps were all it would take to get back on track, and instead I talk myself into believing this isn’t so bad. I mean how lost can one get anyways? You have to get pretty lost to lose God. Thankfully the little voice in my conscience that represented God never went completely away. I tried to silence the voice over years of time, but fortunately God’s plan was more powerful than anything I could muster.
Back to the balcony and the most amazing show I had ever heard or seen. The music, the narration, the lights, the atmosphere in a small (compared to today’s arenas) theater, it all seemed to be happening in slow motion, but at the same time I couldn’t slow it down enough. I wanted to stop each moment and hold on to it for always. Just like when I was a kid sitting in the living room, the only light coming from the candles in the windows and the Christmas tree, with carols playing on the record player; I never wanted those moments to end. They were perfect moments and so was this show.
Even though I sat in the midst of this crowd, I felt as though I was the only one in attendance. I felt that this show was written for me and was to be delivered solely for my benefit. As the narration continued between the songs …”For there he saw a man alone; Though he was walking in a crowd; And though this man had rarely prayed; Tonight his head was bowed…” Come on! Really? Are those lines really in the show, or was that made up because you knew I was here? That’s how I felt. Another amazing thing was how long I resisted God even when I felt like I did that night in December 2000. It goes to show you that the human mind is a powerful thing. Thanks to God’s grace and that little voice that never was silenced, my powerful mind finally did get out-of-the-way … eventually.
So, don’t fight it. God has a plan for all of us. I talked about this a couple of days ago too, but it bears repeating. Most folks, even the ones who know better, roll their eyes when people mention God’s plan for this or that, or for them. Fortunately it’s not up to your or me, really. It’s God’s plan. What are you and I going to do about it? I mean who am I to plan in contradiction to God? I am not going to go all holier than thou here because I am not holier than though. I can tell you that it is a lot easier to plan in accordance with God than it is to battle Him. If you are not sure what His plan is for you, then ask Him. He may not give you a tangible answer then and there but it’s a start. Be present and participating in God’s plan. I try to remind myself of this all the time. I am human too, we all make mistakes. Pray. Listen. Pray some more. Submit yourself to His will. Pray for God’s will in your life. I bet there’s more things in life you and God both want for you than you might think. Ya, He’s got a plan for us all. It might be worth checking out.
Or just go on whatever way you think is best. Achieve all you can. Attain the things you think are most valuable. Pile up the stuff while you can. And while I may have less than a lot of people, but more than some, I feel like I experience more fulfilling moments every day than most people do in a week or month. No matter the inventory of things, no one can count the fulfillment in moments, nor can they be taken away. Do the right thing. But don’t do the thing that is right based on what you think is right, or what someone else would think is right, but because it’s the right thing to do in God’s eyes.
As the first hour, or so, of the show came to an end, I wanted to start it over and do it again to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I mean there were times when I had closed my eyes while taking in the sweetest sounding Christmas guitar riffs I had ever heard. Other times while the narrator spoke of the angel flying over the earth, my mind had raced back to my childhood, for comparison sake, when the lights were right, the sounds were right, and my family was near, to see how that measured up to the moment I was experiencing with TSO. I fought back the tears as my body was a quaking battlefield of emotions and character against my ‘powerful’ mind and it’s lame brained attempts at self-indulgence.
Every year, as you know now, I see TSO play their show. I still swell with emotion every time. It’s so different now though. The shaking is gone and the battlefield is quiet. Thank God. But I still let my mind race back to my childhood living room and hide in those memories for a time while TSO plays those notes just as perfect as always. The words are the same and the meaning no less important, if anything, more important with each passing year. We are just five weeks from Christmas (sorry if you hadn’t put that together yet) and it’s my favorite time of the year. The Christmas message is just as important now as it was when it happened. Listen to the words, listen to the music, the Christmas hymns, listen to the songs of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and slow down enough to enjoy the meaning. It might be worth pointing out that the meaning actually does apply all year. I have tried it. Start with one day, one week, one month, and so on. Lose yourself in the meaning, let your own mind race back to the sweetest memories you have of the season, even if the best memory is that of the new approach you took today. Some history is worth repeating, and if it is, keep doing it. Right is right.
As for me, I hope I am never far from the emotions, the feelings, and the lessons I learned inside the first time.
The first time
Upon seeing the Winter 2011 Tour visit Manchester this year, I have spent a lot of time, maybe too much time, reflecting on my experiences with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I can’t help but return to the first time I saw them. It was only their 2nd tour at the time and I couldn’t wait to go see them live. I have copied a list of the 2000 Tour stops from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s website. You will notice the number of dates, and the size of the venues, has grown exponentially since 2000.
- Dec. 1st – WILKES BARRE, PA (Kilby Theater)
- Dec. 2nd – WILKES BARRE, PA (Kilby Theater)
- Dec. 2nd – KANSAS CITY, MO (Memorial Hall)
- Dec. 3rd – MINNEAPOLIS, MN (North Rop)
- Dec. 3rd – CLEVELAND, OH (Palace Theater Playhouse)
- Dec. 4th – CLEVELAND, OH (Palace Theater Playhouse)
- Dec. 4th – GREEN BAY, WI (Vets Memorial)
- Dec. 5th – CLEVELAND, OH (Palace Theatre)
- Dec. 5th – MILWAUKEE, WI (Riverside)
- Dec. 6th – CLEVELAND, OH (Palace Theatre)
- Dec. 7th – COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (Pike Peak)
- Dec. 8th – DENVER, CO (Magness)
- Dec. 8th – ALBANY, NY (Palace Theater)
- Dec. 9th – HARRISBURG, PA (Zembo Mosque)
- Dec. 10th – DAYTON, OH (Memorial Hall)
- Dec. 11th – GRAND RAPIDS, MI (Devos Hall)
- Dec. 12th – PORTLAND, OR (Schwitzer Concert Hall)
- Dec. 12th – DETROIT, MI (The Opera House)
- Dec. 13th – SEATTLE, WA (Paramount)
- Dec. 13th – ST LOUIS, MO (Pagent Theater)
- Dec. 15th – AKRON, OH (Civic Theater)
- Dec. 16th – PHILADELPHIA, PA (Tower Theater)
- Dec. 17th – PROVIDENCE, RI (Perf Arts Center)
- Dec. 17th – PHOENIX, AZ (Webb Theatre)
- Dec. 18th – NORFOLK, VA (Chrysler Hall)
- Dec. 18th – EL PASO, TX (Convention Center Hall)
- Dec. 19th – AKRON, OH (EJ Thomas Hall)
- Dec. 19th – Ft WORTH, TX (Bronco Bowl)
- Dec. 20th – HOUSTON, TX (Aerial Theater)
- Dec. 21st – BOSTON, MA (Orpheum Theater)
- Dec. 22nd – TAMPA, FL (Mahaffrey Theater)
- Dec. 22nd – WASHINGTON, DC (Constitution Hall)
- Dec. 23rd – NEW YORK, NY (Beacon Theatre)
- Dec. 23rd – ATLANTA, GA (The Tabernacle)
I have selected the two dates I went to see them in my first of twelve years attending their shows. December 8th, 2000 will always be my first. My competitive side wishes I had known more about them in 1999 because I would be able to say I have seen them on every single Winter Tour. One has to start somewhere though, and I am glad I did. December 8th is also my mother’s birthday so this was a special day already.
I first heard Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 on WAAF, a Boston radio station. I immediately fell in love. In my life long pursuit of the best, well performed, Christmas songs, TSO’s signature song catapulted onto my list. I remember calling the station and requesting the song once I had heard it. Then it was a rush to the store to buy the CD’s. I listened. I shared. I listened some more. I read the stories. I read the lyrics. I fell in love with this crazy band I’d never seen, called the what? The Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Once in a while this happens. I will be writing a paragraph and a rhythm to the writing just kicks in. That just happened here in this post so I have replaced the next paragraph with a poem that emerged instead. I hope this will do justice to where I was as a person and the way I felt as I started my relationship with TSO.
Where did these guys come from and how did they know?
That I wasn’t in the right place, though I knew where to go
My path was missing something and I knew it was all wrong
When all of a sudden direction showed up in the form of a song
Nobody that I knew had played Christmas songs in this manner before
Wow! It was so beautiful. I had only an idea of what was in store
I couldn’t dismiss the shrill of those guitars, so sharp like a knife
Shredding all the familiar notes of the songs I’d loved my whole life
My emotions balanced on every note, each one brought me closer to peace
The artist held me in limbo; his fingers played with a master’s ease
Holding me there, waiting, for the note I knew was coming next
Without fail the note is played perfect, always better than I expect
The sounds are so timely, so crisp, so pure and unrefined
Etching new meaning to the words that always play in my mind
I feel these emotions; they’ve been building since I was a boy
It’s undeniable, overwhelming, it’s pure Christmas joy
As the tunes grew on me I started to focus on each word
Somehow I still managed to avoid all the truths I had heard
I took daily struggles and somehow turned them to years
I caused myself and others so many unnecessary tears
The music accompanied me everywhere I would go
And though I wandered all over, I never missed a show
God’s grace followed me though I made it a most difficult task
I always knew, but ignored, to get help I need only just ask
A few years were damaged and I hope not all was waste
Eventually I made my way from that dark and lonely place
I keep these memories close to me as tough as they are
It wouldn’t be healing if I didn’t make time to recognize the scar
And it wouldn’t be learning if I was to somehow forget
The lessons I have learned and I am not done yet
Though the words are familiar they still offer a welcome surprise
Every time I am lucky enough to see TSO live
I am not sure where that all came from but I am glad it came out the way it did. Maybe it’s more information than anyone needs to know, although it is a very real perspective to me. I know that no matter where I was, or what I was doing, I would still enjoy TSO and their music. It all has a much deeper meaning to me, knowing the path I have traveled since I saw them the first time.