Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) is an American rock band founded around 1993 by producer, composer, and lyricist Paul O’Neill, who brought together Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli (both members of Savatage) and keyboardist and co-producer Robert Kinkel to form the core of the creative team. Both Billboard Magazine and Pollstar have ranked them as one of the top ten ticket-selling bands in the first decade of the new millennium.
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The band gained in popularity when they began touring in 1999 after completing their second album, The Christmas Attic, the year previous. In 2007, the Washington Post referred to them as “an arena-rock juggernaut” and described their music as “Pink Floyd meets Yes and The Who at Radio City Music Hall.” TSO has sold more than 10 million concert tickets and over 10 million albums. The band has released a series of rock operas: Christmas Eve and Other Stories, The Christmas Attic, Beethoven’s Last Night, The Lost Christmas Eve, their two-disc Night Castle and Letters From the Labyrinth. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is also known for their extensive charity work and elaborate concerts, which include a string section, a light show, lasers, “enough pyro to be seen from the International Space Station”, moving trusses, video screens, and effects synchronized to music. Their path to success was unusual in that TSO is the first major rock band to go straight to theaters and arenas, having never played at a club, never having an opening act and never being an opening act.
In 2005 Carson Williams started a synchronized lighting race when he used 88 Light-O-Rama channels, over ten thousand lights and a small radio transmitter to illuminate his home to “Wizards in Winter.” A video of the house quickly went viral on the internet and eventually was picked up by Miller Lite as the theme for their T.V. ads over the next two years. Other homes soon followed eventually crossing to single homes with over a million lights. Soon after entire cities like Denver and Chicago were lighting their downtown districts in a similar manner, as well as many major theme parks such as Disney World and Universal Studios.
O’Neill died on April 5, 2017, at age 61, while staying at an Embassy Suites by Hilton hotel on the University of South Florida campus in Tampa. Cause of death as determined by the Hillsborough County, Florida medical examiner’s Office, was intoxication from a mixture of methadone, codeine, Valium and doxylamine and the manner of death as drug abuse.
In June of 2017, the organization announced that they would continue with their Christmas-themed touring. The Ghosts of Christmas Eve story, which they had performed in 2015 and 2016, was announced as their story once again for the 2017 tour.
David Z, bassist for TSO, died on July 14, 2017, while touring with Adrenaline Mob for their “We The People” tour; a tractor-trailer veered off Interstate 75 in Florida and struck the RV that Adrenaline Mob was riding in. Fellow TSO and Adrenaline Mob member Russell Allen was also injured in the accident.
For the 20th annual TSO winter tour in 2018, the band decided to once again tour with The Ghosts of Christmas Eve story.