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Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Trans Siberian Orchestra ready with new production for Tampa

After the Thanksgiving feast, holiday shopping commences, parties are planned, children line up to see Santa and Trans Siberian Orchestra tours.

The prog-rock orchestra, which is based in Florida, doesn’t release an album annually but it hits the road every November and December.

“It’s challenging to come up with a new production each year but that’s part of the fun,” Trans Siberian Orchestra CEO Paul O’Neill said while calling from New York. “It’s a new show this year, with new plots and plenty of pyro and new special effects. Each year we come up with something different, which is cutting edge.”

TSO, which appears Sunday at the Forum, melds orchestral, symphonic and progressive rock elements. The 60-piece orchestra possesses the flair of hair-metal, classical progressions and big hooks.

After producing Aerosmith and Savatage and promoting tours by Sting and Madonna during the ‘80s, O’Neill hoped to take it to another level during the Clinton era.

“Atlantic Records asked what I wanted to do,” O’Neill said. “They gave me freedom and I just ran with the TSO concept.”

That was back in the waning days of record company support when young bands were developed and players like O’Neill, a sharp composer/guitarist were given free reign.

“It is a totally different world today,” O’Neill said. “I’m just thrilled it all worked out and continues to work out.”

TSO has sold more than 8 million albums and 9 million concert tickets.

The act has released a number of prog-rock Christmas albums, such as 1996’s “Christmas Eve and Other Stories,” 1998’s “The Christmas Attic” and 2004’s “The Lost Christmas Eve.”

The albums are filled with songs that help tell a holiday tale.

“The season that’s about to hit us is very important to most people,” O’Neill said. “Everyone grew up with Christmas songs either in their homes or heard them in stores or wherever. We have fun with those songs each Christmas season.”

O’Neill believes TSO tours will remain popular for years. “I think that will be so for one big reason,” O’Neill said. “You can’t download a concert. You can’t feel the heat of TSO when you’re at home. We bring a show that you can’t fully appreciate unless you’re there. There are so many elements that hit you when the show starts.”

O’Neill is a native New Yorker, who works with Savatage members, Al Pitrelli and Jon Oliva and producer Robert Kinkel, but he splits time in Tampa and Orlando.

“How great is it to live in two cities with two great international airports,” O’Neill said. “I love Florida. It’s home for Trans Siberian Orchestra but this is not the time of the season for us to be home. Fortunately, we don’t mind not being home for the holidays.”

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