Mannheim Steamroller Rolls into the GEC

They are, as they are happy to tell you – repeatedly and at length – the
most popular Christmas concert tour in America, and the best-selling
Christmas group of all time. I am, of course, talking about Mannheim
Steamroller and their “Christmas Extraordinaire” concert at the Gaylord
Entertainment Center.
The evening would better be described as “an event,” rather than “a
concert.” Strolling Gingerbread Men, Santa’s Helpers, Snowmen, Tin
Soldiers, and other costumed characters set the mood, and a 25 foot
Christmas village spanned the width of the floor added to the festivities.
The hall with filled with an obviously partisan crowd that was ready to be
A first-rate technical extravaganza, Mannheim Steamroller launched into a
series of songs both, sacred and secular, some of which related to the
Christmas season (“We Three Kings,” “White Christmas”), some of which didn’t
(“Morning,” “Come Home to the Sea”), and some that had no relationship to
anything else (“Wolfgang Amadeus Penguin”) Some elements were played live,
and some were tracked. Steamroller made extensive use of video, requiring
the band to play along to a digital metronome to maintain synch with the
images. While this made for a cool presentation, it also limited the
spontaneity of the band to near zero.
The second half of the show drew heavily on the group’s earlier Christmas
albums, most notably “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas” with its Medieval
festival video footage. Again the performance, though technically perfect,
felt stiff and uninspired. It wasn’t until the next to the last song of the
night, “Fum, Fum, Fum,” that the band finally cut loose from the click track
and actually played with some passion. For this reviewer, the connection was
too little, too late. Even more disappointing was the lack of any reference
to the religious nature of the season. Plenty of toys, nature scenes and
Currier & Ives shots, but nary a manger to be seen.


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