EVANESCENCE: SYNTHESIS LIVE (2018)
Featuring Amy Lee, Will Hunt, Troy McLawhorn, Tim McCord, Jen Majura, Will B. Hunt, Dave Eggar, Susie Selter, David Campbell and Steve Trudell.
Directed by P.R. Brown.
Distributed by Eagle Vision. 130 minutes. Not Rated.
There have been a lot of changes in Evanescence since their debut album Fallen became an out of the box smash in 2002. (They had released three EPs before that full-length smash). Fallen took the band to the top of the pops with the dark drama of “Bring Me to Life” and “My Immortal.”
Soon after the hits, the band started a series of lineup shake-ups and extended group sabbaticals that have continued to the current day, to the point that the band has only released four albums in the 16 years since Fallen. All those albums have all done well, but the extended time between records has slowed their popularity a bit. Still, they still have quite a core following.
Lee has become a mother and had some major lifestyle changes since she was briefly the unofficial queen of goth. She has done a few solo albums, some soundtrack work and performed with other artists, experimenting with genres and styles. Hell, she even did a solo album completely made up of lullabies for children in 2016.
At this point in the band’s history, when she goes back, Evanescence is to Lee as the Pretenders are to Chrissy Hynde: The frontwoman and whatever guys (and gals) she happens to bring along for the ride. Only Lee remains from the original lineup, or even from the Fallen/Anywhere but Home breakout period of 2002-2005.
Other than Lee, the longest-tenured band member is bassist Tim McCord, still around from the 2006 third album The Open Door. Drummer Will Hunt was new to the band on their self-titled fourth album when I interviewed him about the group in 2010, and he’s also still with the band. The two guitarists are both newbies, first becoming bandmembers during the recording of the 2015 album Synthesis, their most recent release, which this tour video celebrates.
Synthesis Live also shows that as a live band, Evanescence still has its chops. Lee and her compatriots take a deep dip into their songbook, pulling out 18 fan favorites and deep tracks from all points on their journey, which meld into a glorious whole. And they do it with an accompanying symphony orchestra. (I know, the orchestral tour is on the verge of becoming a cliché, but Evanescence is one of the rare bands whose music lends itself to such a huge wall of sound.)
One slight complaint about the setlist is that they do tend to dip a little too liberally into the then-current album, which is arguably Evanescence’s least-known recording, but that has to be expected on a concert stage.
The full orchestra that the band brought along allows them to tweak things in some intriguing ways. On their breakout hit “Bring Me to Life” they slow down the tempo and downplay the rough background guitar attack, instead letting the tune ride on a more understated string section. It works particularly well coming on the heels of the gorgeous moodiness of a completely reimagined “Lithium.”
Still, Evanescence’s shining moment – and the song which is given the subtlest orchestral backing – is the simply gorgeous “My Immortal.” Starting with just a string section and Lee’s still impressive vocals, eventually a subtle piano is mixed in. However, the song is a showcase for Lee’s ability as a singer and her voice is as strong as ever.
Somewhat surprisingly for a band that only had three top-ten pop hits, Synthesis Live does skip over their third one, “Call Me When You’re Sober.” Perhaps it just is in her past and she doesn’t want to revisit it, since it was about an old, toxic relationship with singer Shaun Morgan of Seether. Besides, it is certainly not as memorable a song as “Bring Me to Life” or “My Immortal,” so while it is missed a bit, it’s certainly not a fatal loss.
Over 20 years into Evanescence’s history – though they broke out in 2002, the band has been going since 1995 – Synthesis Live shows a group that has been fundamentally changed, and yet is still capable of surprising fans.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 14, 2018.