What do you get when you take talented, creative musicians from one of Chicagoland's favorite bands and add some more strings and percussion, along with an angelic-sounding four-woman choir and a synchronized laser light show?
For the last five years, Infinity has morphed into Trans-Infinity Orchestra (TIO) to create "A Night of TSO," a Christmas show in the spirit of the world-renowned Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO).
Infinity's lead guitarist Lance Tuula, said he originally had the idea with a band he was in before Infinity. "We performed once a year on a MUCH smaller scale," he said. But when he joined Infinity, the band's lead, Bob Biagi, saw the idea and knew he had the means to make it much larger than Tuula's original plan.
"Originally we did it to serve as a tribute and to allow ourselves to stretch our musical legs," said Tuula, who is the show's musical director. Over the years, it's not only been that, but it's become a tradition for many families as a way to begin their holiday season. "We've been so fortunate to have the blessing from many extreme TSO fans, and even received an OK on the project from the real TSO," Tuula added.
I decided to check out the Dec. 13 performance at Andrew High School in Tinley Park.
After seeing the show two years ago, I was excited to see it again, but was not sure what to expect since Infinity has gone through some band changes over the last few months. I was delighted that the talented ensemble with several new faces pulled off a show that proved pleasing to the ears, eyes and emotions.
"My husband and daughter went to see the show last year in Lemont. They made sure we all came this year," JoAnna Martin, of Chicago, said while waiting for the curtain to open.
Her reaction after the show: “It was awesome! I wish I had come last year!”
The 2.5-hour performance was in two parts with a brief intermission.
The first 90 minutes was a TSO-style rock opera with Narrator Zach Newman weaving a story reminding us of the spirit of the season. It included lots of guitar-driven instrumentals as well as some solos by choir members Kat Johnson, who also plays the electric viola, and newbie to the show Judi Lahey, originally from England.
The second hour opened with a drum solo by Vince Ribando and went into a mix of more TSO, Christmas favorites, and even some classic rock, which Infinity is best known for.
The set included: Johnson and Newman performing a “Phantom of the Opera” duet; Biagi belting out a Led Zeppelin medley and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”; and Lahey singing a lively “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
Tuula’s adorable young son, Emerson, stole the show at the end when he came out in a Santa outfit, throwing candy canes to the audience before picking up his guitar and “jamming” with dad to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Santa and Mrs. Claus joined in and the audience was on their feet for the finale—a song that no Infinity concert would be complete without—Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
The show at Andrew was a fundraiser for the school's Athletic Boosters. While only about 400 $25 tickets were sold, leaving many empty seats, the Booster Club deemed it a success and hopes to have TIO back again next year.
"It's a success as far as I'm concerned," Keri Malone, VP of the Booster Club, said after the show.
The Boosters also sold drinks and snacks at the show and Biagi passed a Santa hat in the audience to help raise additional funds.
Prior to the Andrew H.S. show, TIO played to sellout crowds of more than 1,000 at shows in Dixon, Ill. and Kenosha, Wis., as well as a private event for CN Railroad at Union Station. The day after Andrew, they played at the Arcada Theater in St. Charles.
You still have one more chance to see the show this year. An all-ages show is set for this Saturday at 7 p.m. at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park. No tickets will be sold ahead of time, just call and reserve a table if they aren't sold out already. For more information, visit www.anightoftso.com.
“Bourbon Street has given everyone an early Christmas gift. It’s only $5 to see the show. Thank you Bourbon Street,” Biagi said on his Facebook wall.
We give this a five guitar rating, its a must see.
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