Wizards of Winter Concert

Wizards of Winter combine rock, classical styles to kick off holidays in Syracuse

Review: The Trans Siberian Orchestra-inspired winter rock band perform with story and spirit.

The spirit of Christmas is alive with rock music in the Wizards of Winter. The musicians gathered on Nov. 23 at the Crouse Hinds Theater to celebrate the holiday season, mixing familiar songs with twists of exciting progressive electronic rock.

Made up of two keyboardists, a bass player, a violinist, two guitarists, a flutist, drummer, five or so vocalists (depending on the song and player), and a storyteller, the Wizards of Winter proved to be a unique Christmas show.

Photo: Rusty Frank
Storyteller Tony Gaynor took the audience scene by scene between songs.

The gruff, black wardrobe of some band members suggested a metal-rock theme, until other members walked out in suits and clean-cut styles. This is the Wizards of Winter in a nutshell.

The eleven-piece band offered an overwhelming number of instruments, styles and visuals at first glance, but each member got a chance to perform and stick out. While some players headbanged and hair-swished, others glided out and sung deep, long notes in a classic style.

The idea of mixing rock and classical music isn’t a first. Many of the songs were inspired by the well-known Trans-Siberian Orchestra, with whom vocalist Guy LeMonnier has previously performed. But the story addition is unique to the Wizards.

The storyteller, Tony Gaynor – who appeared in with a snowglobe-topped wooden staff – took the audience scene by scene between songs: back to the beginning of Christ’s story, through the ages, and up higher than the North Pole. It’s an adventure via music.

And the Wizards of Winter has a hint of spook in their shows. The sound of twinkly electric keyboards and strings mixed with mystical progressive electric guitar chords and drumming gave it a “Nightmare Before Christmas” feel. With smoke machines bursting out from the top of the snowy village and owl banner, the Wizards jammed with a magical tone.

Their blends from classical operatic music into intense chugging was seamless and exciting. As certain audience members bobbed their heads to the music, lights flashed around, but not to take away from the music and theme. Producer and keyboardist, Scott Kelly made sure to remind the audience of the troops who have risked and sacrificed themselves and their holiday seasons for our country; part of the proceeds for one song in particular, “March of the Metal Soldiers,” goes toward the Wounded Warriors Project.

Although the show featured band to audience interactions, such as Mrs. Claus handing out candy canes and singing, and throwing out beach balls for the audience to play with, the most interesting part of the night were some old-time versions to popular songs like “The Nutcracker.” Turning that classic into a fast-paced, sockhop blend was something musically unique. The women in the Wizards of Winter later sang doo-wop along with outstanding electric guitar solos.

The nearly two hour-long set is well worth the show for something new. To watch each member come to life through their solos, in their own way while smoothly in accordance to everyone else is what makes this concert different. If it weren’t for the players – and the spirit of Christmas – all we’d have is the same old holiday over and over again.

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