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Evanescence Concert Review (2/13/04)

Do you remember the scene in Spinal Tap where the lead guitarist leaves the band and they have to figure out how to play a concert without him?

Well, a few months back, my wife and I got tickets to the Evanescence concert. Then we find out that the concert is canceled for unexplained reasons and that there will be a rescheduled date.

It was eventually rescheduled to last Friday. Apparently, Evanescence lost their guitarist, which is why they canceled it. It should go as no big surprise that my brain dredged up that scene while I was waiting in line to get in to the arena.

My wife and I liked what we had heard so far of Evanescnce. The thing about heavy metal is that it really works best when you have a high-pitched vocalist to fit in the sonic range between the cymbals and the chugga-chugga-chugga rhythm parts. Normally, it's a relatively lightly built screechy guy. However, there's no good reason why a woman's voice can't fit in that frequency range.

The problem is that all of the major efforts in this direction have been singularly unimpressive, at least to me. My ex-roomate in college was a fan of Nightwish, but that has more of an operatic female vocalist and that never quite clicked with me. Lita Ford is... well... Lita Ford. And I guess I have to say nice things about Liz Phair, although she's more alt rock than metal. So I'm hearing a really good female vocalist playing against heavy metal guitar and synth work and everything and eventually made the connection.

Eventually, my wife and I realized that we were both quite fond of that band's music. Now, for those of you who don't know my wife and I, that's a rare and rather beautiful thing. It's best viewed in terms of set theory (My degree is in Math and Computer Science, after all) Call the set of my music W, and the set of her music S. Now, the union of W and S (that would be W ∪ S) is really huge and spans just about everything except for gangasta rap, a large chunk of pop country, and the music that my parents listen to. However, the intersection of W and S (W ∩ S) is frighteningly small, so we try to treasure the music that fits in both sides.

The hall was filled with people ranging from graying folks to grade school kids in fishnet stockings and tennis shoes.

Two bands opened for Evanescence. Atmoship went first and played some metal that I really found myself not being particularly interested in. Default, however, did an impressively good job. I had never heard of them before seeing them, but I was most impressed.

Getting back to the whole issue of Evanescence losing their lead guitarist, who happens to be one of the two founding members, I was a little perturbed about how that would turn out. When they dropped canvas and started playing, I was struck by how much the band was now centered around Amy Lee. She had people screaming her name when she came out on stage. Thankfully, it was significantly less annoying than a gender-switch version of the Backstreet Boys and they were able to get on with the concert.

The one thing that I noticed was how far they deviated from what I term an Aerosmith-styled live performance. When you see Aerosmith live, or, for that matter, even on TV, you get a new interpretation of the same song. They syncopate things a little differently, they switch around parts, extend solos, etc. This, in my mind, is what a concert is about and why you pay more money for the concert, instead of just listening to the CD. It's the whole experience, the visual experience of seeing the performers play (well, other than seeing the bizarre facial expressions as the lead guitarist squeaks out what we guitarists call the whiddly-whiddly bits ;) ), the unique interpretation of the album, the physical presence of a whole lot of people who, although some of them are definitely people who I'd consider a smidge strange, are, for the moment, like-minded individuals.

Amy Lee has quite the presence on stage, dancing around with the mic in her allegedly self-designed outfit. She's actually cute, which doesn't come across in the blue promotional art (well, except for my one friend from college who likes blue things). She had headbanger hair.

"Bring me to life" is their first single, the song off of the Daredevil soundtrack. It's also what turned me on to the group in the first place. On the album cut, they had a guy who is, more or less, screaming his head off for most of the parts. The guy they had singing was doing a little more shouting than screaming. Later on, he put a little more oomph in to it, but my wife wasn't too impressed overall with that rendition.

But, except for the differing vocalist on "Bring me to life", the songs were almost exactly like the album cuts. I think they even did one thing that is guaranteed to drive me batty -- pre-recorded backing tracks on a live performance. After I mentioned all of this to my wife and she listened to "My Immortal" on the radio later, she agreed with me, that we didn't get anything new, aurally, out of the experience.

I have to say, the lighting and stage design was done quite well, although I wished people would use the balcony they had set up above the drum riser a little more. They worked the evanescence logo all over the place. The best part, I thought, was when they "broke it down" and played the power ballad songs with the guitarist on acoustic guitar and Amy Lee playing a keyboard.

So I guess the missing lead guitarist isn't going to be as much of a problem, at least for them performing their existing songs. Apparently they had a guest vocalist singing the album version (which means that former member Ben Moody did a feat of lip-synch worthy of bollywood on the music video) so I wouldn't have missed him anyway. The next album is going to be the deciding factor when we find out how much Moody's songwriting presence will be missed (who probably wasn't getting any sex appeal anyways from being second-fiddle to a female role-model)

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