Your independent guide to the best shows in Chicago
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This show has been a favorite of mine for four years in a row I cannot wait to see them again for a fifth time this show was never boring or terrible to me mannhiem steamroller is the best Christmas show I’ve ever seen the orchestrations were always pretty and the snow was a big hit as well
Winifred Madden, from SoNo, Connecticut
What is in the drinking water in Kenosha… my therapeutic suggestion for the woman author of the review would be to suggest to sober up, and seek spiritual guidance for relief from blaming others for not meeting her imaginary expectations of what the artistic collaborative performance event she criticizes in whole not taking responsibility for ruining her own evening as well as complaining to the rest of the public. Perhaps a shift in perspective would alleviate clashes between expectations and acceptance of the art of collaborative creative original work joyfully presented as a gift from the heart to the audience. Unless you are a thoroughly vetted performing arts critic, try to find something that you can enjoy or be open to savoring the experience presented to you.
Maybe it would be a good idea to have something to eat and a nap before going out in the future. I’m praying for you to have some joy in your life. Blessings!
Sara from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
If you're looking for an over-the-top sensory assault like TSO, this is not the show for you.
This is, however, an outstanding concert with top-notch musicians and beautiful renditions of
Christmas classics and original compositions.
Ashley from Kenosha, WI
My husband and I, with a few of our friends,
went to see the show and weren’t that
impressed. I expected it to be more of a
Christmas show. They played some Christmas
songs, but some I didn’t recognize. The weird
NASA video in the very beginning was strange
and had nothing to do with Christmas. There
were many other weird videos playing behind
them on the screen which I felt took away from
watching their performance. The videos were
old and outdated. It was an ok night, but will
probably never pay to see them again. I’ll just
stick to listening to their CDs because I enjoy
that more than seeing them live, unfortunately.
Robert from Jackson, Mississippi
I was disappointed in the performance. The musicians were ok, but this was billed as a Christmas performance. They only played a few Christmas songs and I am not sure what the other songs were about. The video footage behind the band had little to do with Christmas for most of the show. Very disappointed.
from Providence, Rhode Island
Saw this group in Providence last night. Our
first time seeing, we had high expectations
based on their reputation. Agree with many
above re the head scratching NASA opening,
dated video behind during many of the
songs, and lack of engagement with the
audience. There were a few songs that
sounded amazing, and during these the
performers seemed much more energized,
but during others they had pretty low energy
and appeared bored. The violinist was
highlight of the show. Also liked some of the
lighting affects and the setting--Providence
Performing Arts Center--is always beautiful.
Glad we went (as always wanted to see
them) but would not go again.
S. doherty from Portland, Oregon
I found the severely dated videos/lightshow arrangement to be woefully annoying. Nothing made sense and the quality of the visuals were horrid. It was confusing, as if someone found a stash of unrelated 1980 videos and threw them in for background activity.
It's unfortunate as the live music was delightful but between the videos and odd intrusive light show it took away from the musicians and concert. I witnessed other audience members covering their faces with their show programs and hoped nobody was going to be triggered into a seizure by the random flashing lights.
My ticket was $65. I hope the producers of this program use some of that money and HIRE a professional artist to update their program and save their reputation/future.
Michele Miller from Grand Rapids, Michigan
NOT A CHRISTMAS EXPERIENCE
The first thing I noticed was how dull the stage was. The musicians just wondered out, no pizazz. The music was a mix of songs in the beginning with old videos that were poor quality on top of being weird. The musicians were talented but really left me feeling underwhelmed. Not a show I would ever pay to see again.
Joel Levee from Knoxville, Tennessee
STEAM ROLLED LAST NIGHT IN KNOXVILLE
Was really disappointed in the forums play list.
Probably only played five major Christmas classic songs. The majority were songs that were played back in the 1500s with a harpsichord and flute.
Or the music with written by the shows producer Chip Davis.
A real disappointment.
Tricia from Detroit, Michigan
So show started out Christmasy and I know original album was 1985 but did the videos still need to be 1985 and not even HD?
Second half was terrible with Castle reenactment scenes really weird and off and not Christmasy at all and you didn’t even hear the great music because I have no idea what the heck that was about and was most of the second half of the show about 4 songs! Literally popped out of our seats grateful it was over.
Phil from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
THE MUSIC WAS NICE, THE VIDEOS THEY PLAY WITH THEM ARE TERRIBLE
Manheim Steamroller is an acquired taste. It reminds me of Christmas radio as a kid, but is admittedly very cheeseball.
At the 2022 show in OKC, the performers did a great job, but whoever does their videos is AWFUL.
Decades old In VHS/Super 8 quality, the stage videos are bizarre and off-putting, nearly ruining the show with their confusing inclusions. Random sea gulls, Soul train camera effects, clip art time lapse, solar flare footage that looks like it's from a 1980's PBS special...even seasonally appropriate stuff if done with CGI so ancient as to be laughable. Nearly every video is of such TERRIBLE quality that I felt genuine embarrassment for the band. I was embarrassed just to be in the AUDIENCE.
And I get your friend recently passed who wrote and sang the 1970's truck driver song "Convoy" but did you really have to play the song in it's entirety as a tribute?! Such a bizarre choices in a Christmas performance.
This show needs retooled or retired, whichever comes first.
Melissa F. from Colorado Springs, CO
HORRIBLE VIDEOS, FELT BAD FOR MUSICIANS
Like all the other reviews have opined on the show would have been 10x better if they had just cut the video entirely. The videos are old, VCR or worse quality from the 70s or 80s, containing images of dolphins, weird space images, and at times culturaL appropriation. I felt bad because the musicians are clearly talented but the pairing with the visuals was truly awful and detracted from the music. Also the “tribute” to the creator was poorly timed after an actually nice rendition of O Holy Night. To go from that nice piece to banjo twanging and a weird compilation of old videos about the founding of Mannheim Steamroller was really jarring. The only songs I liked were the ones a bit more scaled back where you can actually hear the violin and oboe soloists, instead of overly synthesized big 70s band sound. I hope they hire a visual arts consultant to get rid of that because it was truly terrible. I was not a fan of the non-Christmas music. I would save your money.
James from Wilmington, Delaware
We were disappointed and left wanting after seeing
Mannheim Steamroller at the Grand in Wilmington,
Delaware. For those who are expecting a TSO type
performance, is was not a close comparison. The
quality of the the music was good in a low key type
fashion, but the visuals in terms of musician
performance and the video backdrops were downright
poor. Was expecting much more.
Rapidsrider from Grand Rapids, Michigan
We saw/heard this show in Grand Rapids, MI, leaving at intermission. We were most disappointed.
The musicians appeared bored and did not engage with the audience on any level, We found the
music artificial, plastic, and "pretend." We have heard Mannheim Steamroller before and have
several recordings, but this was just painful to observe and hear. The only bit of relief was the
University of Michigan Men's Chorus (we think) which was wonderful, but too brief.
Chris L. Davis from Cleveland, Ohio
WHAT WAS THAT
Last night was my first time to see the band. Was disappointed. What was with the videos that
reminded of MTV in when they first came out and scratched my head then said what’s that
gotta do with the song. Actually dozed off for a while during the first set. In the beginning of
the show the leader announced that Chip’s daughter was going to sing in the second half. Yea
she song in a prerecorded video..wtf. I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for the tickets.
C.Ferrer from Cleveland, Ohio
NOT WORTH THE MONEY
The musicians are great, but the absence of Chip Davis and daughter Elyse Davis was a let down (program indicated she was singing a song during the second half, which turned out to be a mix of videos of her performing elsewhere) - definitely not worth the $100+ per ticket we paid, The beginning NASA video felt like we were at the science center, not a Christmas concert, and one song seemed to roll into the next with no connection with the audience.
Don C from Barrington, Illinois
I had high expectations and this show fell short. The volume was low
as if there were no speakers. The screen was difficult to see. The
show needs a reboot. Everybody near us was saying the same thing.
The one redeeming feature were the lights but even that was still so
yesteryear. It you saw the show 20 years ago, it not much different
now. They are milking this for all they can get without investing in
John Stevenson from Minneapolis, Minnesota
MANHEIM STEAMROLLER - MPLS ORPHEUM
I used to be a big fan. Chip Davis set the tone of self promotion with a lack luster space
shuttle and 1970's video. No energy from the performers - great musicians but poorly
orchestrated. Should have stayed home
Kelly from New Brunswick, New Jersey
I surprised my mother and daughter with
this show...Was My Surprise how let down I
was... Hardly a Christmas Celebration ...
What was with the old horrible video
displays...Not one Xmas decoration on
stage.. Very Few Xmas Songs played ...The
NASA Intro was NOT a good idea for a Xmas
Themed Concert ... I left devastated for
wasting my moms time.... That was alot of
money for me to dish out for this let down ...
:-( The Videos played made it even worse
Barbara Valentim from Charlotte, North Carolina
So disappointing, we were guest of our friends at this event last evening.
the Laser show is terrible, quality of the video graphics is awful....I have better
picture on my home TV. Why we were paying to watch a video of the singer in
Mexico and various cities.....flashing lights in your face.....about 40% Christmas
the videos of NASA Clips ? why?
the whole show was dated......felt like the 70's. bad. bad. bad
did not enjoy, would not recommend
JSF Sarasota Resident 40+ Years from Sarasota, Florida
VERY DISAPPOINTING ON MANY LEVELS - BAND & VENUE
We saw Mannheim Steamroller at the Van Wezel 11/17/2018.
Small Seats, uncomfortable, hard to get past people in the rows. I've
never seen the Van Wezel look worse. Cables stretched/draped along the
top of the entrance doors going back to the console. What an Ugly Site!
Performance: No Energy from the band whatsoever. I've never seen such
straight faces in a performance before. NO EXPRESSION whatsoever. They
looked bored. Pathetic.
Sound: Where was the Kick Drum? We don't know, it wasn't in the mix, oh
wait, they found it on ONE song, and then it was gone again. There was a
string section in their "Orchestra"... couldn't hear them, but there they
sat... emotionless, expressionless, not being heard. The center performer,
on a riser, the one person who spoke... once, and not so well, was playing
some kind of electronic pad thing... it never made a sound. Wasn't in the
So Very Disappointing overall. Light show was the best part of it, and that
was weak. Show is Outdated.
Bill M. from Riverside, California
THE SPACE SHUTTLE THAT STOLE CHRISTMAS - SONIC BOOM!
I had planned to celebrate this Mannheim Steamroller event for months as a surprise to my wife for Christmas. The evening came. We are seating in the Fox Performing Arts Center - Riverside, CA excited to experience this wonderful group. Before the performers came on stage, we were greeted with an explosive sound from the audio system. We thought, "Okay, they are just have a minor sound check problem". The concert began with an odd NASA Space Shuttle backdrop video; no Christmas music? Hmm,.. okay, the first song from their portfolio began,... BOOM! That sound, again. It's happened every time they performed any of the up tempo songs, BOOM, ...BOOM... It was so loud and forceful you could feel the air blast from the speaker. The pain from the sound was like cannons. The poor musicians we all shock as us. Guests were streaming out the doors. They stopped the performance to fix the problem, but to no avail when they attempted to start. BOOM!! At that point, the concert was over. Our night
Dave Bambaloff from Seattle, Washington
MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER IN SEATTLE - NOT WHAT I EXPECTED
The intro was 10 mins of space and pictures of the Discovery shuttle which hasn't
flown since 2011. It was long and really, very uninspiring. This was to simply plug his
new CD, "Exotic Spaces". Not buying it.
I was watching a cover band. This was Mannheim Steamroller WITHOUT Chip Davis!
The sound was terrible. The bass drum and or bass guitar were overdriven a lot. You
couldn't see the players in the back nor for that fact, any players in front. They had a
jumbo tron but no camera to highlight or show individual performances. And I have
a suspicious why that was. There seemed to be a lot of music being played when no
one was playing at all! And there were missed notes and stumbles.
And to make matters worse, Chip would put in a plug to hock his item via the jumbo
tron. Bad taste I thought.
Won't go again...Stick to the CD's
As for seating, the Paramount could be better. The seats don't stack up to see in
front of you.
Mr. Show Critic from Costa Mesa, California
MANN ALIVE! THAT'S WAS TERRIBLE!
The gravity of a traumatic event is often difficult to articulate to those who are unfamiliar with one’s life experiences. I, however, find solace in knowing that I am not alone in my suffering. For I know there have been many others here who have had the misfortune of witnessing the sheer and utter train wreck that is Mannheim Steamroller Christmas. This musical monstrosity, created by Chip Davis, is almost virtuosic in its orchestral incompetence, and irrelevance as an artistic piece. You may find this invective unfair or unwarranted, but please allow me to elaborate.
The very idea out of which this show was born was a destined for failure. The show program proudly bills Chip Davis’s unique blend of Renaissance and modern music as, “18th century rock and roll.” Well, let’s first move past the fact that the Renaissance period actually occurred between the 14th and 17th century, and instead indict the ear-twisting amalgam of passé 1980’s synthesizers, flimsy electronic brass sections, harpsichord, lute, dulcimers, and yes, even recorders. The end result is the tonal palette of 1980s T.V. theme song, and musical pieces that sound as if they were written for a forgotten straight-to-video Princess Bride sequel. Secondly, Chip Davis’s tediously bland orchestration and inexplicably frequent use of chimes seem to only be punctuated by irrelevant and dated videos, shameless self-promotion, and pathetic montages of what I assume were the long lost golden years of Mannheim Steamroller. Lastly, and perhaps the most telling, were the use of prerecorded sections throughout the show. Why wouldn’t Chip have live performers for those parts? Why would such a runaway musical phenomenon have trouble attracting talent? Could it be conflicting schedules? Cost Overruns? Lack of musicians talented enough to perform such masterfully written pieces? My guess is that those canaries have long since stopped singing. Whatever the reason for the prerecording might be, they were a blatant reminder of just how cheap and superficial the entire performance felt.
After the performance, I felt genuinely shocked that Segerstrom Hall would host such a truly awful show. As a respected stronghold for the arts in Orange County, one might expect an evening at Segerstrom Hall dedicated to the masterworks of Beethoven or Rachmaninoff. However, Mannheim Steamroller stands in contrast as the aural equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade painting. Perhaps even more shocking was the reaction from many in the audience. Rather than a violent horde baying for the blood of Chip and his hideous creation, I witnessed many in the audience who were delighted by the spectacle. I questioned my sanity before finding good company in the negative online reviews (1.5 stars on yelp). So please, if you are planning on attending any future Mannheim Steamroller Christmas performances I beg you to consider donating the money instead to any reputable charity. Together we can spread Christmas cheer by simultaneously helping those in need this season, and ensuring that no one will have to suffer what so many of us have had to endure.
Don Cape from Albany, New York
Worst show ever. Have seen their show many times since the late 80s
No special effects , like the horse scene and the renasance scene with stage
actors paticipating with movie scene, really neatly done , no special effects, when we saw years back. What has happend to this show?? I have all the old tapes CD's large snow globe with train running around outside of globe.
( still works ) Sorry guys , will not see you again. Your getting old. Retire!
Coloradobuddy from Denver, Colorado
POOR CONCERT, NEVER AGAIN
Stage lacked Christmas decorations, music was okay, but musicians seemed un-interested. Since group has split into two venues, they seem to just want your money. I hope Chip leaves Elyse a large inheritance, she is not going to make a career from singing. I have seen many of their Christmas shows 20+. this one is by far the worst.
Pam from Bourbonnais from Chicago, Illinois
STRANGE AND WEIRD POORLY DONE
Very strange videos ruined beautiful music.. with all the beauty and magic of Christmas.. only a few song’s showed that.. waste of time and money..
John from Denver, Colorado
SEE ALL ABOVE REVIEWS
Unbelievable. So sorry I missed the Nutcracker for this.
Joy Sanford from Dallas, Texas
Venue disappointing. Seats so close together it was like a cheap airplane ride with very uncomfortable seats.
Concert was very disappointing. This was their 35th anniversary your, I expected so much more. They need to update their backdrops and movies. They were out of date. Musicians we're good but not anything special. Claps were limited
Geoff from Chicago, Illinois
LITTLE RESPECT FOR THE ARTISTS
The actual artists appeared to be hired hands - playing in the shadows. Attention was given, rather, to a super cheap series of extremely random videos. The music was great, but felt as though I was listening to a cd with live accompaniment. Very poorly executed.
Vic dillingham from Little Rock, Arkansas
I’M AT THE CONCERT
I’m in Charleston SC at the Gillard center right now at the concert. It just has to be the worst concert ever! Omg. This is crazy I paid over 200 dollars for two seats. This is like a Bad B movie! The videos are horrendous…. For the love it’s awlful !
Barbara from Minneapolis, Minnesota
Don’t waste your money. It was not more then a commercial to sell outdated product. Weird videos — it took the cheer and magic out of Christmas and it would have frightened children—- sadly cheap and wanting for even a candy cane or a Christmas cookie....Very disappointed....Chip needs to hang it up!!!
Barb from Green Bay, Wisconsin
The Weidner Center is a perfect venue for a concert, but not this one. I would give it 0 stars if I could. The guy dancing in the video in the tank top was repulsive. It was disrespectful not to introduce the 9 members of the Mannheim orchestra. The concert is nothing without them. What was with the soloist singing in the video? The video with the renaissance meal wasn't necessary. Don't want to forget about the signing lips on the video. That was creepy.
Intermission felt more like an infomercial trying to sell merch. I have always enjoyed their music. This concert was a big disappointment.
Michelle from Lowell, Massachusetts
WASTE OF MONEY
Bought these tickets for my 78 year old mother who loves Christmas. Expected a Christmas show. I can honestly say this was the worst show I have ever been to in my lifetime. The musicians were good. The show was so poorly produced and lacking any energy. No stage presence or charisma by anyone on stage. The videos on the screen behind the stage were so weird and bizarre. This show could have potentially been wonderful because the music is good, but it was just plain awful. Myself, my mother, and my two adult daughters ended up with the uncontrollable giggles because we couldn’t believe what we were witnessing and that we paid $100 per ticket for this.
Faye Ingram from Charlottesville, Virginia
MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER CHRISTMAS
We had orchestra seats. Great view! The concert was at best a 1 rating. The videos played in the background were very distracting, as we went to see Mannheim Steamroller, not a video of a horse running endlessly or a guy in leotards leaping through the air. This is my first time seeing this group and will not recommend them or see them again. We had a party of 6 and we all agreed this was not what we expected.
Cheryl from Green Bay, Wisconsin
I’ll leave it with…cannot for the life of me listen to their music anymore…flashbacks of the absolutely horrible videos subjected to the entire night…should have left at intermission….all around sad….just sad…
Alice Jones from Charlottesville, Virginia
MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER CHRISTMAS
Very disappointed with the entire production. The videos were terrible and the musicians were not engaged with the show. I would not recommend this to anyone. Save your money.
TCP from Birmingham, Michigan
GIVE ME BACK MY $75 (EACH)!!!
Like watching HD? Me too - apparently 1985 called and wanted SD back for the entire show!
Plus - the music fine - what the hell was everything else? The Christmas Day dinner from the 1400’s of people gorging and getting wasted and what - like you think your family is annoying at Christmas - I was happy it was over.
Tremendously disappointing because I took my daughter to the Fox for the first time and we were so excited and then….
Dennis Johnson from St Louis
SAME LOUSY SHOW IN ST LOUIS
Paid to see a live show, not videos! On one song, the performer was on tape from Omaha. Did they use avatars?
From the reviews above, Mannheim Steamroller left a trail of waste all across the US with this show. And, they can’t blame the pandemic for this.
Mona from Jacksonville, Florida
Terrible show with David Foster in Jacksonville, FL SAD... pride brings about a great fall ...
Susan W from Durham, North Carolina
NEVER AGAIN - 80S VIDEO QUALITY WITH SOME CHRISTMAS MUSIC
This was a disappointing waste of time and money. I was looking forward to getting into the holiday spirit. Instead I had to view poor quality videos that looked like they were produced in the '80s that had no relation to the music they were background for. What do whales, dolphins (and their sounds) and Greek ruins (poor video quality) have to do Christmas music? What does a pirate or cloaked horse rider, riding frantically through the woods, with shots of the ocean and the coast, and then a Scottish castle with Santa & Mrs. Claus and to do with Christmas music? Chip Davis marketing (hawking) his products on video during the concert, including suggesting using the QR code in our program to make purchases, was over the top. Watching women in leotard in silhouette walk like an Egyptian across the screen, then see lips move across the screen to Carol of the Bells was the finale. Some of the music was very good. Some was mediocre. Not worth your time-or keep your eyes shut.
Minsos from Palm Desert
STEAMROLLING OVER DIVERSITY
Too few moments of great sound, too much repetitive percussion, too many similar faces, too much self congratulation, too much sell, too much “jingle-type piano,” too much money for too little enjoyment.
Neil from Morristown, NJ
LITTLE XMAS MUSIC, TERRIBLE DATED VIDEOS
We expected a live Xmas show 12/3/22 full of Xmas music. I guess the whole audience were too. But it seems that Mannheim doesn't care about it's audience and are going to educated us about chip, chip's daughter and the history of Mannheim steamroller and chip's other hit.
And so we got:
- no live singers - chip's daugher was pre-recorded on video and the band played along
- some Xmas music, 1 baroque tune, mostly non xmas
- a video of chip's other hit "convoy" with the band thrashing along to the record
- chip talking to us from a diner in Nebraska
- weird dated vhs quality videos of dolphins, a medieval enactment, ghostly angels, tropical sunsets - all in 640x480 blurry vision. I struggled to look away, but it was in your face
- chip on video inviting us to shop for Mannheim steamroller merch from our seat (not tempted)
- some self promotional video with the band playing on late night TV and to different ex-presidents (but different musicians)
I wonder how this show got so lost
from Detroit Michigan
If you enjoy 1980s VHS videos in 2022 this show is for you. Loved the music but nothing Christmas about it. Seagulls and dolphins from a video recorder. Had higher hopes and couldn't wait for it to end. What the heck was that terrible country twang song before the intermission. Trans Siberian Orchestra blows this out of the water by a landslide?
Gallagher from Denver , CO
NOT A CHRISTMAS SHOW - OUTDATED LIGHT SHOW
If you like old videos of Greece and Angels that look like the Dementor's in Harry Potter this is the show for you. They played CW McCalls “Convoy” out of no where. Not a Christmas Show! Save your money and watch them on YouTube.
IryeElena from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
PIERCING AND SHRILL
My high hopes and expectations for this show both were dashed. I purchased tickets for our ninth anniversary and to celebrate the season, and from the first note of the welcome music to the last before we left at intermission, the sound was excruciatingly shrill. Whoever mic'd the piano and harpsichord need a refresher tutorial, the light display was mediocre, the video and graphics that played throughout the show were confusing and amateur, and the self aggrandizing by Chip Davis off-putting. Upon leaving, my husband and I stopped for a drink at Proper Brick Oven and enjoyed the rest of our evening there. At this point, I can't bring myself to listen to MS music ever again.
Diane Power from Rosemont Illinois
MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER ROSEMONT
I looked forward to giving this show to my children and grandchildren as a Christmas present. I am extremely disappointed that I made this choice. Don’t bring it to Chicago again
Charlie Roy from Nashville, Tennessee
I hope Chip has a bank full of money from years ago....... this was pitiful!
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