Trans-Siberian Orchestra are gearing up to make their annual trek across the US for the holidays. I caught up with musical director and guitarist for TSO, Al Pitrelli, via Zoom to talk the tour and a lot more. I joked about knowing what time of year it is because I’m speaking with Al. My first question was if he was ready for this year. He jokingly responded “Almost.” At least I thought it was a joking response. He went on to tell me he had work to do on some things before heading to Omaha for the rehearsals. The show does change every year. In fact, he shared they are still working on things for the set including song order. A big smile broke out on his face when he spoke about getting to the arena for the rehearsals.
The tour is 104 concerts in 62 cities in 46 days. When I quoted that to Al, he pulled his fist down in the air and simply added “Yessssss!” We did speak about that is divided between two touring bands covering the shows, but that is still a lot in such a short period of time. Al spoke about this all beginning when he played the opening notes of “Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24″ 28 years ago. The song got immediate attention. There was a bunch of albums recorded after that and then their first live show in 1999. That was done with one box truck and a fog machine. He spoke about it growing to the point where it split into the two different touring bands because in 2000, they wanted shows all across the US. He said that’s when the late Paul O’Neill, TSO founder, told Al he would cover the East coast with one band while All covered the rest of the country. After that, shows started selling out. That’s when they also adapted and started playing two shows in a single day in some of the cities. Al said Paul’s line was “Adapt, overcome and improvise.”
Al shared that “I turn into a 15-year-old every time I put that Les Paul around my neck and I stand down stage center for the 18,000 people.” He said that even though he has that fun of an experience, their crews experience is different. l spoke about their hard work and that being why he introduces the crew at every show. He said, “Without them we’re dead in the water.”
We discussed being on the road at the holidays away from family but, that the fans who return every year are also like family. Al very funnily referred to them as “My repeat offenders.” He said after 24 years this is his holiday tradition and that it is what his family has known all these years as well. Al doesn’t view it as sacrifice, he feels fortunate and to be able to do this every year successfully is a blessing.
I felt it important to take that opening to discuss the blessing the TSO tour is every year for others. From the very beginning the band has donated $1 from every ticket to a local charity in each city they play. At this point we are talking over $18 Million over the last 24 years plus whatever is raised this year. Al gave the credit for all of that to Paul and his family. Al said it was a thing that Paul never really talked about, “He just did it.”
Al shared a sense of pride in being able to look back at what and where Trans-Siberian Orchestra is today. He also spoke about how terrifying it is because “It went by in 5 minutes” as he snapped his fingers. He talked about with time moving so quickly, he wants to be in the moment and enjoy every aspect of this experience.
We also spoke about tickets being available at Trans-Siberian.com remember $1 from every ticket goes to a local charity. We also spoke about the future of TSO, including the players that Al gets to watch coming up. He spoke about wanting this to last well beyond his years. That’s when we made the comparison between the TSO annual tour and Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular as far as longevity and being people’s holiday tradition.
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