HASH(0xb4b718)

Trans-Siberian Orchestra founder Paul O’Neill dies at 61

Trans-Siberian Orchestra founder Paul O'Neill dies at 61

TAMPA, Fla. — Paul O’Neill, who founded the progressive metal band Trans-Siberian Orchestra that was known for its spectacular holiday concerts filled with theatrics, lasers and pyrotechnics, has died. He was 61.

University of South Florida police spokeswoman Renna Reddick said O’Neill was found dead in his room by hotel staff at a Tampa Embassy Suites late Wednesday afternoon. She says there were no obvious signs of foul play, and a medical examiner is working to determine an official cause.

The band said in a statement that O’Neill died from a “chronic illness.” The band calls his death “a profound and indescribable loss for us all.”

O’Neill was a rock producer and manager who began putting together Trans-Siberian Orchestra in 1996, blending heavy metal with classical music and creating a unique brand of rock theatre. He tapped three members of the Tarpon Springs, Florida, band Savatage to be part of TSO and intended for it to be a “supergroup,” similar to popular bands like ELO, Pink Floyd and Yes.

“The best description of a TSO show I ever saw came from a reporter who said the only way to describe TSO is ‘The Who meets Phantom of the Opera with Pink Floyd’s light show,'” O’Neill told the Tampa Bay Times in an email interview in 2012. “I would take any one of those alone as a compliment.”

The band is best known for its hard rock takes on Christmas staples like “Carol of the Bells,” but also more experimental, arena-rock songs such as “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24),” which described a lone cello player playing a forgotten holiday song in war-torn Sarajevo. That song was on the band’s 1996 album, “Christmas Eve and Other Stories,” which went triple platinum.

Fans especially loved the band’s Christmas tours, which were heavy on guitar solos and heavier on special effects — similar to a Broadway Christmas pageant with a heavy metal soundtrack. One magazine once wrote that “TSO has enough pyro to BBQ an entire school of blue whales” during a show.

“My personal theory is it was being in the right place at the right time. It was easier for us to jump the generation gap between all the people before us. There’s something magical about watching a 15-year-old kid get into an Al Pitrelli guitar solo and his father jamming out there with him. That’s (proof) enough time has gone by that everybody has rock in common now, which simply didn’t exist when it was born in the ’60s,” O’Neill told Billboard.

But O’Neill, with his signature flowing locks, sunglasses and leather jackets, was remembered by legions of fans on social media Thursday for something else: his deep generosity.

Fans recalled how O’Neill would often approach them before concerts and hand them a silver dollar from the year they were born (he kept a case of them while touring), or sometimes hand out jean jackets. And others recall him tipping waitresses thousands of dollars for a post-show meal, buying drum sets for young fans and on numerous occasions, would not let security guards kick fans out until everyone received an autograph.

O’Neill is survived by his wife and daughter.

Tamara Lush, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Cable Car quarry to go ahead

A second application for a quarry on Kitamaat Village Road is underway

Heavy rains threatened operations at Rio Tinto

Situation aggravated by the washout of the PNG gas pipeline

Ross backs Wilkinson for head of BC Liberals

“As an urbanite, he’s very aware of the issues that are important to rural people.” - Ross

Amendments will prevent unreasonable rent increases

The amendments would improve the rights of renters throughout the province.

VIDEO: Researchers rely on drones to survey aftermath of B.C. wildfires

UBC researchers are using aerial drones to study the historic 2017 wildfires in the province

VIDEO: Average Canadian food bill to rise by $348 in 2018

Atlantic Canada and B.C. will see the most increases for consumers

Owl found dead after eating rat poison leaves B.C. woman concerned

After finding the owl on her Surrey property, Christine Trozzo says the poison is a concern for kids

Change to CPP death benefit panned as insufficient to cover funeral costs

Funeral Services Association of Canada lobbied governments to raise the value to $3,580

#MeToo at work: Employers play a role in fixing culture of sexual harassment

B.C. workplaces are getting ahead of being the next MeToo debacle, calling on experts to train staff

New real estate rule will hurt Kitimat market

“I feel I have been robbed of what I have been good at for the past nine years”

B.C. woman brain injured in crash as a baby gets $1.1 million in damages

Trial heard the woman was 16 months old, being carried by her mother when they were both hit

Court denies WestJet’s bid to toss out discrimination lawsuit of former worker

Mandalena Lewis is suing WestJet over allegations of gender-based discrimination

VIDEO: 3 months later, rescued sea lion released back into ocean

The young animal was found in Campbell River three months ago

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

Most Read