Lights come up on a stage crowded with figures. The beautiful Amy Lee sits composed at the piano in red, hitting a single key as strings and brass build around her. She smiles as the crowd cheers, adding notes until the Overture reaches its peak and becomes the opening track of the night: ‘Never Look Back’.
‘Synthesis’ is an appropriate title for this electronic, verging on EBM, remix of Evanescence. Adding a fresh spin to songs that are twenty years old isn’t always simply done, but rather than feeling like a cheap update it’s more of an evolution; a growing up of a band that epitomised teenage pain, with influences from the likes of Bjork and Portishead clearly coming through the arrangement.
As Never Go Back develops into rock opera, she finally stands from the piano and takes centre stage, voice as powerful as ever. The electric beat pounding beneath strings, this version of Evanescence seems less gothic rock and more operatic EBM, relying on the volume and skill of the orchestra and band rather than a complex light show. Seriously, how is her voice still so incredible that it can cut through the majesty of a full live orchestra to be the single most impressive thing happening on stage?
Her performance is as emotive as the music has always been. It’s always a pleasure to watch a performer who seems to genuinely enjoy being on stage, and as her accompanying band groove away in the background it’s clear that this is a band who love to perform and share their art with the world. Amy Lee herself is a gracious host, professing thanks to the band and audience for the opportunity to play in a real orchestra.
The song that the audience is clearly waiting for is the band’s biggest hit, ‘Bring Me To Life’. The song originally stuck a typically 21st century rock/rap cord, which is forgotten here entirely with only violins and cymbals replacing the heavy bass and drums. As the song builds, the electronic pulse raises the composition to a new level, and the bridge is slowed right down and tailored to her single voice, rather than the obligatory rap that was forced onto the band by its label.
Throwing back to the beginning of Evanescence, she pulls Imaginary from their original EP, reigniting a sense of madness and panic in this otherwise rather gentle song about delusion. Old and new songs alike are subjected to this incredible reworking, making even the familiar feel fresh and unexpected. You can still hear the Pagan and Medieval influences in her music, but now it’s joined by a newer, dirtier – somehow more primal – electronic tone, all tied together with gothic rock finesse.
‘Your Star’ showcases perfectly how to take a sad song and bring it up to magnificent levels, while in ‘Lacrymosa’ the backing of the music makes the tune feel even more vital and alive, Lee’s voice twisting higher and higher until she reaches an incredible crescendo of pitch to the end of the song. Her Beethoven-inspired ‘Unravelling’ makes for a minimal, melodic interlude, while the debut of Hi-Lo goes from earnest ballad to instrumental chaos and back again.
Belting out lyrics while hammering away on her Steinway, Amy Lee seems more comfortable than ever in her role, with Jen Majura looking cool and composed as ever at her back. She dedicates one of their oldest songs, My Immortal, to the audience; this tragic ballad giving her the perfect opportunity to show how the vulnerable young woman who released that song at 19 has grown into her own.
‘The In Between’ creates an instrumental interlude before the show ramps up again with the incredible Imperfection – perhaps the only Evanescence song to feature swearing! With a different approach to the song, Lee almost raps; it’s the closest they’ve gotten lyrically to a clear political message. Taking a completely different approach to timing in her music, the frenzy of music carries her crystal clear vocals.
“Embrace who you are. You are good enough. You do belong here. We can’t waste our lives being afraid to live them” is how she leads into the ever-relatable ‘Good Enough’. She nods as she sings, reminding herself of the truth of these lyrics, helping us with her on a road to self-acceptance. This song is one of few in the performance not to receive the electro treatment; instead the strings gently accompany the central vocals and piano. It’s a song that needs to be heartfelt, not epic.
The show finishes on the bewitching ‘Swimming Home’, a goodbye to life that doubles as a goodbye to her audience, and a neat bookending from the opening ‘Never Look Back’. Bows are done in theatrical style, musicians smiling with their arms around each other.
For a band that was hampered from the beginning by industry expectations around gender in metal, lumbered with the limiting – and inaccurate – “Christian rock” assignation, judged “too goth” or “not goth enough”, it’s actually incredible to see what they’re now capable of. With this high level of production and clearly more collaboration within the band itself, it feels like this could be the beginning of an entirely new Evanescence.