Monday, December 10, 2018

THE WIZARDS OF WINTER - Event Review! Clearwater Casino Resort 12/6/18

The Wizards of Winter

Clearwater Casino Resort
Suquamish, WA


The Wizards of Winter have been playing their brand of holiday music since 2009. Having released three albums, every holiday season the band has expanded their tours to hit more and more cities.

On Thursday, the band played the Clearwater Casino Resort. This meant hopping the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston to cover the show. A sunny but cold December day in the Northwest, the weather set things up nicely for the show that evening.

The touring band consists of twelve members - musicians, vocalists, and narration. Yes, the name sounds as familiar as the set up. The Wizards of Winter have been compared to the Trans Siberian Orchestra since their inception. The current line up boasts two former TSO members in John O'Reilly (drums) and Tony Gaynor (narration/vocals). Guy LeMonnier is also a former TSO member but sat out this year's tour (much to our disappointment).

The band is dressed up in formal attire and a holiday story is told in conjunction with the music just like TSO as well.

The room was sideways (I've covered other shows where the stage was at the far end of the room making for a seemingly smaller stage but better overall sightlines for the audience) which caught me off guard. Those in the B section were directly in front of the stage. A and C sections, depending on the row and seat, had angled views of the stage.

The band played a set that was 90 minutes give or take. Instrumentals and songs from their albums made up the setlist. "Queen Of The Winter Night" was one TSO cover that appeared as well.

The band members have talent. Fred Gorhau and Chris Green on guitars definitely stood out to me. They were equally good on guitar all night long. It was great to see John again on an acoustic kit (instead of the electronic drums TSO requires them to play) and Greg Smith was rock steady on the bass. Ellie Krasner smiled the entire show I think. Her violin playing complimented the music extremely well.

I enjoyed the vocals of new to the band singer Karl Scully. Vinny Jiovino brought the rock and sang his heart out all night as well.

It's been quite some time since I'd heard Tony's narrative voice. I started going to TSO shows back in 2003 (and have continued to do so since). It was great hearing him again and it reminded me of the earlier years of TSO.

Rebecca Graae, Shawna Marie, and of course founders Sharon Kelly and Scott Kelly rounded out the band.

Some of the songs worked for me, some of them not so much. I remember the first time I saw TSO I had the same reaction so take that comment with a grain of salt. I've since grown to like most TSO songs (not all, though).

There were times when bum notes were hit (especially keyboard which I couldn't figure out considering the talent in the band - I asked others after the show and they heard the same thing so it wasn't just me). Vocally the same issue cropped up. A flat note here and there. Perhaps the in-ears weren't functioning properly which would absolutely affect the vocalists. None of this was a major concern - only minor things.

Overall the show was enjoyable. It was nice hearing a holiday rock opera without all the flash. TSO has been overdoing it for years in my opinion (again, I've been going every year since 2003). I think if The Wizards of Winter continue to grow, then they'll be able to add a bit more flash to their show which would be the perfect medium between what they're doing now and what TSO has been trucking around for years.

I would love to see the band connect with the various performance art centers in our area for next year's tour. Traveling to Suquamish or Shelton or Longview isn't ideal for anyone in the Seattle, Everett, or Tacoma area. Edmonds has a beautiful performance center (hint, hint) as does Kirkland and others. If they book a show in Seattle, the Neptune Theatre would be a good choice (holds 800).

The band has shows lined up the rest of the month. Check them out if they're near your town!

Happy Holidays,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Special Thanks: Maria and Debbie for the credentials - thank you for the opportunity! I sincerely appreciate it!

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