BANGOR, Maine — The sturm und drang of Beethoven matched the wet, gloomy weather that hung over the Bangor Waterfront on Wednesday night as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra brought its unique fusion of metal, prog rock and classical to the waterfront concert stage. It was the first concert of 2012 and it brought a technically advanced, dramatic flair to this year’s lineup.
Founded by producer Paul O’Neill in 1993, TSO is almost as famous for its over-the-top light show as its music. With lasers, HD projections, pyrotechnics, fog and countless racks of stage lights, TSO does not disappoint when it comes to technical wow factor. Nor does it disappoint with its theatricality, from its entertainingly melodramatic narrator to its long-haired, headbanging guitarists.
TSO has scored legions of fans over its nearly 20-year existence; two of them, Chad Bizeau of Augusta and his mother, Trudy Bizeau of Hartland, have seen them more than 10 times over the years.
“They’re great with their fans, they’re extremely professional, their shows aren’t expensive and they’re incredible musicians,” said Chad Bizeau, who saw TSO just a few weeks ago at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. “Every show they do is as good as the first one I saw. They’re really phenomenal.”
Several large groups were in attendance at the concert; among them were National Guard service members affiliated with Operation Community Support, a military support group founded in the Bangor area by Skip Chappelle. Waterfront Concerts donated 150 tickets to the show for military service members.
“TSO is very appreciative of what the military does for all of us Americans,” said Alex Gray, Waterfront Concerts organizer. “So we reached out to Skip Chapelle’s group.”
Additionally, nearly the entire student body of Greenville Middle School bused to Bangor to attend the concert. School band director Josh Guthrie and his wife, Tera, had the idea to try to bring the school band — which almost the entire school is a part of — to the concert. After a few months and the efforts of some highly motivated band boosters, 60 middle-schoolers, 17 high-schoolers and a handful of chaperones were on their way to see TSO.
“The bus ride down was pretty wild. Everyone’s really pumped,” said Guthrie. “We’re always trying to get the kids into classical music, and this is a really great way to bridge the gap between rock and pop and classical. I hope they come away from it with a greater appreciation for how skilled these musicians are.”
Trans-Siberian Orchestra has often been a teaching tool for music educators seeking to make classical music easier to understand for students. Kevin Smith, a Bangor resident who attended the concert with a large group of friends, recalled first hearing TSO in grade school.
“I remember my teacher playing it for us, as an example of music that bridged gaps between genres. I’ve been a fan every since,” said Smith. “I remember thinking that it was really cool that it was both classical and rock. I think it makes a lot of people pay more attention to classical music. I’m really excited for the show.”