Music News & Reviews

Sounds like the holidays as performers bring their shows to the Valley

Christmas in the world of Trans-Siberian Orchestra isn’t mistletoe, hot cocoa and carols.

In the world of Trans-Siberian Orchestra — which brings its hugely successful rock and light show to the Save Mart Center on Wednesday — Christmas is a high-voltage, sensory-pounding experience.It takes 15 semi-trailers and 10 tour buses to tote around TSO’s brand of Christmas joy. That includes a full orchestra, a rock band and a massive rig dedicated to pyro, lighting and special effects.

Everything comes together in a hard-rock-meets-live-theater musical event dedicated to the Christmas experience.

It works well when you consider that TSO is annually one of the most successful tours — even though it’s only on the road for two months out of the year.

There’s no doubt you’ve heard the band’s recorded material if you listen to the radio or watch TV. In fact, TSO released a new album this year, “Night Castle.”

Wednesday’s concert is the start of a busy season of holiday music in the Fresno area, which includes Christmas institutions such as Mannheim Steamroller and Michael McDonald, but also acts such as Sara Evans and Brian Setzer.

Here’s a look at what’s coming this year:

Mannheim Steamroller

Would you believe that Mannheim Steamroller has out-sold huge music names such as Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Bon Jovi?

That’s what happens when you’re a Christmas music institution.

This year Mannheim Steamroller is celebrating 25 years of holiday cheer, with a new anniversary-edition CD and a 58-city tour that makes a stop in Fresno on Dec. 10 at Saroyan Theatre.

Tickets cost $30-$75 and are available through Ticketmaster.

Andrea Bocelli

By now you’ve probably heard the story: Andrea Bocelli was scheduled to play Save Mart Center, but had a conflict in his schedule, so the date was changed to Dec. 8 and the show moved to much-smaller Saroyan Theatre.

Tickets are long gone, of course. But those lucky enough to have them will be seeing the famous opera singer share songs from his newest CD, “My Christmas.”

Sara Evans

Country singer Sara Evans is scheduled for Dec. 4 at Chukchansi Gold Casino & Resort — a show split between her greatest hits and seasonal songs.

Evans became a star behind her 2000 album, “Born to Fly,” which spawned the hit single of the same name.

She’s got a new album, her first since 2005, due in 2010.

This year, she released a digital four-song EP of Christmas songs to support her current tour.She performs at 8 p.m. in Chukchansi’s Half Dome Theatre. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster and cost $30-$40.

Michael McDonald

Blue-eyed soul singer Michael McDonald is best known for his work with The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan and as a solo singer — but he’s actually done quite a bit of work in the Christmas world.

This year McDonald released “This Christmas,” tallying his third Christmas CD.

He’s bringing a dose of that to the Visalia Fox Theatre on Dec. 11 when he performs a night of seasonal favorites. Tickets cost $45-$75 and are available at or through the Fox Theatre box office.

Details: (559) 625-1369.

Sons of the San Joaquin

The Son of the San Joaquin return to the Visalia Fox Theatre on Dec. 19 for their annual Christmas concert.

This year there are two chances to see The Sons, with performances at 2 and 7 p.m.

The Western band — made up of brothers Jack and Joe Hannah and Joe’s son, Lon — is a member of the Western Music Association Hall of Fame.

Tickets cost $18-$22 and are available through, or at the theater’s box office.

Details: (559) 625-1369.

Gary Hoey

Famous surf guitarist Gary Hoey has another side when surf’s not up. He’s a prolific Christmas music player.

He’s released four different installments of his “Ho! Ho! Hoey!” Christmas CDs and makes a Christmas tour part of his annual duties.

Lately, Exeter’s Orange Blossom Junction has been on his list. And he’s back there this year, playing Dec. 15. Tickets cost $50 for the concert, or $75 for the concert and dinner.

Details: (559) 592-6726

Brian Setzer Orchestra

Brian Setzer and his orchestra offer a swinging take on Christmas tunes at Table Mountain Casino on Dec. 22.

Setzer famously fronted rockabilly band The Stray Cats before turning to his orchestra to lead a swing revival in the ’90s.

With his orchestra, Setzer has released three Christmas CDs and regularly tours around the holiday season.

Tickets cost $25 and $35 for his Table Mountain show and are moving quickly. Buy them online at

Details: (559) 822-7777.

Ricky High and Friends

Young local singer Ricky High and his friends combine for the annual Ricky High Holiday Concert today at Fresno Veteran Auditorium, 2425 Fresno St.

Christmas music, classical and Broadway are all on the program for the concert, which includes friends from American Classical Music Academy.

High, 16, has released a number of CDs since 2002. He also hosts weekly radio and talk shows.Tickets cost $7, $10 and $25. Showtime is 2 p.m. Details: (559) 225-0335.

Tuba Christmas

It’s a tradition to head down to Manchester Center for the gathering of the tubas.

It’s actually a national event called Tuba Christmas, which Fresno has long participated in. This year it’s happening Dec. 5.

Anybody can go watch and any tuba players can go play Christmas songs.

There are performances at noon and 1 p.m. Registration is at 9 a.m. Rehearsal is at 10 a.m.

The reporter can be reached at mosegueda or (559) 441-6479. Read his blog at