So, where to start...
First I should say that I had very, very high expectations for this show. This was essentially the one thing I had been waiting for as a fan of TSO - that one day they would take the shows back to the more intimate setting of theaters, where they started - and give the Beethoven's last Night album (my favorite of theirs) the proper staging it deserved. Now that being said, I had my huge reservations due to the fact that I think Paul O'Neill (the "boss" of TSO) has a habit of taking virtually every good thing and fucking it up - not to mention none of the album's original vocalists would be doing the tour - especially Jon Oliva and Zak Stevens. Nevertheless, I was prepared to have a good time.
We got to the FM Kirby Center around quarter of 7pm, and had surprisingly absolutely no issues with the Paperless Ticketing system, which seemed to work very smoothly. We waited in the lobby until about 7:20, when we made our way down to our seats which were 5th row, on the right side of the left-center section. I was pretty surprised at how great the seats actually were. Around 8pm Chris Caffery came out to present a check to the Red Cross, and about 10 minutes later, the show was under way.
The show began with a fairly "cold" start, not much in the way of intro music or ambiance - the lights dimmed, the opening notes of the "Overture" started up, and everyone walked out. The next 2 hours solid consisted of the entire Beethoven's last Night album. Now, rather than give a very lengthy track-by-track, I'll simply hit my highlights and criticisms:
First of all, every track with the mighty Rob Evan (Beethoven) was incredible. I've been a huge fan of his voice for a long time, and he is just amazing. Absolutely perfect pitch, and his delivery was excellent - with his Broadway experience giving him the perfect dramatic touch. Moreso than anyone else, you truly felt he WAS the character. And he pointed at me in "This is Who You Are" which was just great.
Other very strong points: Jay Pierce did a great job as "Twist", nearly perfectly matching the performance on the CD, which I was not expecting. John Brink (Young Beethoven) was probably the best surprise performance of the show, it's a damn shame this guy (kid, practically, he is no older than his early 20s) only got one song ("Vienna") because he really ruled. Perfect performance, perfect delivery. The audience loved him. Jeff Scott Soto did a fine job with the Jon Oliva tunes, and had a very devil-ish charm to him. The chorus of "Mephistopheles" was amazingly epic. Also, props to him for really matching Jon note-for-note (and laugh-for-laugh) on "Misery".
Instrumentally I really can't fault the show at all except for a few very specific points. First, I've always been bothered by how they castrate some of the material by dramatically slowing it down. The songs are fine the way they are, they don't need to lose 15bpms. It's not annoying at all on some songs but on others it's a massive annoyance. Also, "Misery" tended to sound somewhat... watered down. The devilish aggression of the song was somewhat lost to more of a "Creeping", laid back feel. Aside from that, no complaints about the band, everyone played really well. Instrumental highlights were Mozart and Madness, A last Illusion, Beethoven, and the instrumental section of "The Dark", during which I truly felt as though I was witnessing a late 90's Savatage performance. Al Pitrelli absolutely ruled that solo.
Now, onto some of my more legit complaints. First of all, the stupid whorey dancing needs to die. All of it. Now, I am a straight male, I don't fundamentally hate women dancing - but I do when it completely obstructs the mood and feeling of the story, and seems completely forced just to "sex" up the show. When the girls decided to come out in the second half f "After the Fall", I had a complete facepalm moment, it just killed the vibe. Other than that it was basically completely confined to instrumentals, mostly the ones in the "encore". I am not too hot on the decision to make "The Dark" sung by a girl in stead of Zak Stevens, but I understand the decision to want to represent "Muses" with a girl instead of a guy - and it was a solid performance by Valentina Porter, though outshined by her performance on "A Final Dream". The role of Theresa was taken on by TSO newcomer Chloe lowery, who was a bit of a mixed bag. Overall all her performances were solid, but they weren't stunning, and her dress was cut a bit too provocatively, making it somewhat hard to concentrate on the "right" things. "Dreams of Candlelight" was her weak point, but the other two were quite good. I'm not convinced they couldn't have found someone better, but it wasn't a bad decision.
Finally, we have "Believe". I have been fundamentally against the decision for TSO to play and rerecorded this song, and that hasn't changed. I particularly have voiced my disapproval of vocalist Tim Hockenberry's very processed, psuedo-dramatic vocals, and that too hasn't changed. However, the song still retained quite a bit of its power in the live element. It didn't bring me to tears as it did when Jon Oliva (and his "Pain") performed it, but it was still very much "alive", especially when seeing Caffery and Pitrelli play the duel solo together. I sang every word, Oliva-isms included, and it still managed to be a great aspect of the show on the whole, even with my negative points about it.
So, that about does it for the show. Oh yes, Jeff Plate threw me a drumstick, which was super cool of him. We waited in the signing line after the show, actually specifically til the very end, so we wouldn't be rushed through it so much. The performers were a mixed bag, but most of the ones I was specifically looking to meet were very cool. Most of. Unfortunately one of the most highly anticipated, Al Pitrelli, was a dick. And not very subtle about it either. He signed my 3 booklets I brought for him, but I didn't even dare ask for a picture, because he was just so incredibly cold and downright rude. I was pretty put off by it, and it was probably the rudest I've ever been treated by a member of a band I was looking forward to meeting. Thankfully everyone else made up for it. This was the first time I had seen Caffery since playing two shows with him last September, and he was really nice and really cool, seemed happy to see me again. Johnny lee Middleton was super-cool, and apparently already knew who I was thanks to Facebook, as did Rob Evan, who was probably the coolest of the whole bunch. He was very inquisitive about whether or not the show lived up to my expectations and what I specifically thought of his performance. Probably one of the coolest and nicest people I've ever met.
After loitering in the lobby for a while, we hit the road around midnight, and got home around 1:30. All in all, a very very good show. Was it amazing? No. Was it great? Yes. Would I go again? Definitely.
04.What Good This Deafness?
06.What is Eternal
07.Mozart and Madness (Savatage)
11.The Dreams of Candlelight
12.Requiem (The Fifth)
13.I'll Keep Your Secrets
16.After the Fall
17.A last Illusion
18.This Is Who You Are
22.Who is this Child?
23.A Final Dream
24.Toccata - Carpimus Noctem
26.Prelude to Madness / The Mountain