December 20, 2019

Tom Netherland | Special to the Herald Courier

Trans-Siberian Orchestra pioneered wedded styles of heavy metal with opera and classical with Christmas, presented in spectacular form.

A decade ago, The Wizards of Winter birthed in similar fashion.

New album recorded and dramatized, The Wizards of Winter present “The Christmas Dream” at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol, Tennessee on Sunday. They’re not Trans-Siberian. Instead, The Wizards of Winter feature a slimmer cast of about a dozen musicians, several of whom were past members of TSO.

“We’re one Wizardly family,” said Steve Brown, guitarist for The Wizards of Winter.

“It’s not TSO. Wizards of Winter is more organic. We’re a real rock ‘n’ roll band that’s playing real music.”

Scott and Sharon Kelly formed The Wizards of Winter in 2010 for the purpose of performing Trans-Siberian Orchestra music at a benefit. A year later, they morphed into a band that created and performed its own music.

Three albums followed, including its latest, “The Christmas Dream.” From that album comes the dramatized show that The Wizards of Winter bring to Bristol.

“You’re going on a journey through Christmas,” Brown said by phone from a tour stop in Wisconsin. “As we know in real life, Christmas isn’t always about good times. There are bad times, too. Wizards of Winter deals with bad times and good times, struggles and blessings of Christmas. We take you through an incredible journey, an emotional journey.”

During the 1960s and ’70s, The Who established new rock band terrain with such rock operas as “Tommy.” Trans-Siberian Orchestra adorned themes of Christmas and winter with rock opera treatments. The Wizards of Winter elaborate upon that on stage and on record.

“This is my debut tour with the band,” Brown said. “It’s a super group. We’ve done a lot of sold-out shows. There’s a lot of room on the circuit for this rock opera thing.”

Past members of rock’s Def Leppard, Rainbow, Blue Oyster Cult, Alice Cooper’s band and Ted Nugent’s band cobble as The Wizards of Winter. There’s even a member of The Irish Tenors in their mix. Altogether, their music and stage narrative thrives on palpable drama.

“It’s a hard rock opera wrapped up in Christmas,” Brown said. “You’ll get great sound. We have a great lights show. It’s full of sensory joy, audio and visual. It’s like a Broadway play, a Def Leppard show and a little bit of KISS combined.”

As for Brown, his rock credentials date to the early 1980s and the formation of Trixter, with whom he still records and tours. He’s also filled in a couple of times on guitar for Def Leppard.

“My style is Eddie Van Halen and Neal Schon meets Randy Rhodes,” Brown said. “There’s shredding, but I like to tell a story with the melodies.”

Storytelling reverberates at the core of The Wizards of Winter. Each new song, from the guitars extravaganza of “Gonna Snow” to a buoyant “The Four Kings,” relate cornucopias of cinematic swaths within the construct of Christmas.

Majesty, like a ribbon of red hugged to a Christmas gift, ensues.

“The Wizards of Winter show is for all ages,” Brown said. “We’re just trying to put a smile on people’s faces. Brother, it’s Christmas. We can’t wait to come to Bristol to rock your socks off.”

Paramount Bristol