Music

Dark Siren Amy Lee Electrifies the Faithful in Overdue Return to the Stage

Great rock 'n' roll never goes out of style and Amy Lee has been one of the genre’s most uniquely dynamic performers of the 21st century.


Evanescence

Evanescence

City: Los Angeles
Venue: The Wiltern Theater
Date: 2015-11-17

Bands that take extended breaks can risk losing fans and career momentum if they stay away too long. But when a band returns from an absence and fans show up and act like they never left, it's hard evidence of a band that matters. Such was the case in November for Evanescence, the multi-platinum hard rock band that took the music world by storm with their debut album in 2003. Charismatic singer Amy Lee and her band hadn't played a show since 2012 before returning to the stage to play three American shows as a warmup for a big show at Ozzfest Japan.

Fans in Nashville, Dallas and Los Angeles were the beneficiaries with Lee saying it would have been a waste to get the band together for rehearsals for merely one gig. She's taken time away from the spotlight in recent years to concentrate on other endeavors and who can blame her? Achieving rock star status should afford a person the luxury of taking their time to do what they want with their life. Lee and her husband had a baby boy in 2014 and she split from label Wind-Up Records to become an independent artist, while also doing some soundtrack work. The fate of Evanescence was up in the air, but now it seems the band is getting ready to rise again.

Evanescence has only released three studio albums in 12 years but the enigmatic Amy Lee is such a captivating performer that her fans' appetite for a performance remains ravenous. This was evidenced in multiple ways including the show's sold-out status, the lengthy line of fans out front waiting to get into the pit, and the fact that some fans were driving in from at least as far away as Phoenix (and posting about it on social media).

There were spine-tingling cheers from the audience from the moment the lights went down and in between every song played during the band's charged 90-minute set. Lee acknowledged this energy early on, saying how grateful she was to see her fans coming so strong after the three-year absence and making her feel like the band had never left. The extra good news for Evanescence fans is that she also promised they wouldn't have to wait that long again for more shows.

Great rock 'n' roll never goes out of style and Amy Lee has been one of the genre's most uniquely dynamic performers of the 21st century. Rocking the stage in purple tights with black combat boots and a black top, Lee delivered a powerhouse performance befitting of one of Earth's most compelling rock goddesses. "Going Under" -- the lead track from the band's debut album -- was an early highlight with Lee rocking out in front of a very tight band, as well as playing some keyboards herself. She's got one of the most powerful voices in rock history, yet one that she also balances with a tender vulnerability in her vocal stylings. There are few singers in music history that can balance these two sides like Lee can and she clearly showed that she's still at the top of her game on this Tuesday night.

"The Other Side" from 2011's eponymous third album sent a jolt through the theater with a heavy sound and intriguing lyrics about meeting a loved one in another dimension. Lee captivated the audience here and throughout the night with how into every song she was, rocking out with the passion of someone with no pretensions. Lee played grand piano on "Lithium", a powerful ballad from 2006's The Open Door, showing off her instrumental skills behind one of her most heartfelt vocals. She delivered more dynamic piano on "My Heart Is Broken", with her piano melodies powering the tune as the band synched in around her part with a heavy attack behind some of the singer's most vulnerable lyrics about a dark angel who seems to have left this world.

Lee has the presence of a dark avenging angel herself when performing and it was fabulous to see her looking so happy to be playing live music again. She delivered a deep cut with "New Way to Bleed", a bonus track from the 2011 album that again artfully balanced her piano with crunching guitars and a soaring vocal. New guitarist Jen Majura rocked with skill and style all night and contributed some fine vocal harmonies on the tune. The band simply crushed "Made of Stone" with Lee belting out one of her strongest vocals over the song's twisting groove and odd time signature.

An acoustic duo interlude featured a gorgeous cover of Led Zeppelin's "Going to California" as well as a crowd-pleasing rendition of "My Immortal" that saw most of the female fans in the house singing along on the somber ballad. It was a bit of a strange crowd with almost everyone in the balcony remaining seated throughout the show, rather odd for a hard rock show. The packed crowd downstairs didn't move much either, maybe because they barely had any elbow room or perhaps because they were so mesmerized by Lee's compelling presence. But the shrieks and applause between each song certainly indicated a captivated audience.

The band cranked the voltage back up with the first album's "Whisper", featuring an explosive blast of strobe lights that matched the intensity of the music as Lee sang of fallen angels and an urgent desire to overcome fear and evil. The well-crafted set steamed toward a climactic conclusion with the anthemic "Call Me When You're Sober", the theme of which seemed to resonate with many in the audience. The band went back to the first album to bring things down just a notch with "Imaginary", which featured softer piano interludes between powerful choruses before closing the rousing set with their breakthrough smash "Bring Me to Life".

A double encore featured some of the band's strongest material with Lee going deep on "All That I'm Living For", a tune that starts with down-tempo piano and soft vocals before building into its hard-hitting chorus. Anyone who didn't dig the "Erase This" finale should have their head examined. The scintillating tune featured Lee back on piano but powering an up-tempo full-metal attack that capped the show with an appropriately big finish.

Welcome back Amy Lee and please don't be a stranger. There are too few women in rock who have the integrity to stand behind their music without a pandering sexuality and/or contrived pop sensibility. There's also all too few performers who can be described as a genuine force of nature and you are one of them.

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