by Alan Sculley & r & As Paul O'Neill, founder of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, begins planning for each year's holiday tour, he looks for inspiration on how to make the show new and exciting for fans who have seen previous TSO holiday concerts.

"We keep trying to throw more and more surprises at the audience," O'Neill says. "I think I learned this from Pink Floyd. Every single time I thought the show couldn't get any better, the show had peaked, they'd come up with a new effect where I was like 'Oh my God!' We do the same thing. We go through the show and then by the end we're throwing the kitchen sink at the audience. It's just like fog it, light it or blow it up, just keep it interesting and make it entertaining. It's going bigger and bigger."

O'Neill notes that two trailers of equipment and special effects have been added for this year's outing, allowing space for several new special effects, including a form of color-changing pyrotechnics and a new lighting system that offers an unusual amount of flexibility to illuminate the show. "The trussing system moves and changes shape during the show," he says. "It's just pretty impressive when you see like a gazillion tons of lights and effects and everything else just all of sudden in the middle of a song start to move."

O'Neill expects this year's tour to draw around 750,000 fans -- slightly more than last year when the holiday tour was ranked second by Billboard magazine for most tickets sold. "The only band that had bigger ticket [sales] was the Eagles, which is good company," O'Neill says.

Musically, fans can expect the new tour to offer some new twists as well, O'Neill says. This year's show features the first installment of TSO's three-CD holiday trilogy, from the 1996 release Christmas Eve & amp; Other Stories, as the main rock opera of the evening. The second set will feature selections from the group's other two holiday CDs, 1998's The Christmas Attic and last year's The Lost Christmas Eve.

O'Neill says Christmas was chosen as a theme because it offered the backdrop to create the kind of epic storylines that a musical unit like TSO demands. "Because Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a combination of a full orchestra and a full rock band and at this point 12 lead singers," says O'Neill. "We have to do subjects that are larger than life," O'Neill said, "but you also want something that everybody can identify with."

The Trans Siberian Orchestra plays the Spokane Arena on Sunday, Nov. 27, at 7:30 pm. Tickets: $32.50-$42.50. Visit or call 325-SEAT.

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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