CONCERT REVIEW: THE WIZARDS OF WINTER’s Christmas Dream Tour – An Entertaining Blend Of Symphonic Rock And Holiday Mayhem! (Bergen Performing Arts Center – December 15th, 2021)

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On Wednesday night, Santa’s house band at the North Pole, The Wizards of Winter, brought their Winter Christmas Dream Tour to New Jersey to the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood.

It’s that wonderful time of the year when Christmas spirits are high, and the progressive-rock band, The Wizards of Winter, arrive to usher in some yuletide joy. Their concerts are always a way for families to enjoy quality time from the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping while being dazzled and entertained.

The Wizards of Winter ensemble is eleven members strong, three women and eight men featuring Scott Kelly [Musical Director/keyboards], Sharon Kelly [vocals/flute], Fred Gorhau [lead guitar], Greg Smith [bass], John O’Reilly [drums], Steve Brown [lead guitar], Guy LeMonnier [vocals], Manny Cabo [vocals], Alexis Smith [vocals], Kornelia Rad [violin/vocals] and Tony Gaynor [narrator/vocals].

Photo by Robert Cavuoto

Tonight’s two-and-a-half-hour show provided the audience with enough flurry of guitar, symphonic string accompaniments, vibrant violins, and big choruses to last the entire year. This is a group of musicians and entertainers who truly love to perform, giving it everything they have on every song. Songs like “Polar Eve,” “Handel’s Torch,” “Ebenezer,” “The Four Kings,” and “Queen of the Winter Night” were delivered with precision and a meticulous eye towards detail while being infused with a spiritual flair.

Narrator Tony Gaynor opened the show with his rich baritone voice and drew the audience into the Winter Christmas Dream story, and held the audience spellbound between songs. Throughout the night, each member received their well-deserved time at center stage for a solo performance; vocalist Manny Cabo rocks out with the rhythm and blues-inspired “The Four Kings,” Sharon Kelly and Kornelia Rad serenade the audience with violin and flute on “Handel’s Torch” and vocalist Guy LeMonnier shined for his operatic rock song “Spirit of Christmas.” Vocalist, Alexis Smith, made it snow and transformed the venue into a spectacular Christmas wonderland on “Gonna Snow,” and Sharon Kelly was stunning with her powerful high octave singing on “Queen of the Winter Night.” The unsung heroes of the night were Greg Smith on bass and John O’Reilly on drums laying down the unflinching back-beat allowing everyone to soar. The Musical Director, founding member, and keyboardist of the Wizards of Winter, Scott Kelly, dazzled the audience with his playing while adding some fun moments of levity during songs.

Photo by Robert Cavuoto

Hotshot guitarists Fred Gorhau and Steve Brown complemented each other nicely, providing a healthy dose of holiday swagger by means of pyrotechnic guitar acrobats. Before the show, I spoke to guitarist Steve about what goes into preparing to deliver a perfect musical performance? He replied, “The songs are harder than they look. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time practicing the materials, so it becomes second nature. The other end of the spectrum is the live performance. You don’t want to be on stage staring at your guitar neck the entire show. When I hit the stage, I want to look as I have been doing it for ten years!”

Photo by Robert Cavuoto

Tonight, people got what they expected, a high-energy rock show filled with Christmas songs. They showed their appreciation by their applause after each song and giving the band a standing ovation at the show’s close. The Wizards of Winter started their Christmas journey in 2010 and, with the exception of last year due to COVID, have been performing every year. In some ways its seems like they’ve been around much longer, delivering holiday joy. Judging by the smiling audience, Wizards of Winter will remain a family’s Christmas tradition for many years to come. Be sure to see the extraordinary show when they sled into your town for this holidays season or next year!

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