CURSED WITH SUCCESS
Evanescence can't draw much from just one disc
Toronto, ON - Molson Amphitheatre
July 18, 2004
Courtesy of the Toronto Sun
TORONTO -- If I were 16 years old, Evanescence would be my band. The Arkansas group is heavy, haunting and
led by raven-haired gothic cutie Amy Lee. Since I love Marilyn Manson, I should dig Evanescence.
But watching the
band play a packed Molson Amphitheatre on Sunday night, it felt like all style, no substance. Evanescence's success is also
a curse: Their debut album Fallen spawned four smash singles, including the crossover hit Bring Me To Life. They've rushed
rapidly to arena-sized venues, but with only one disc to draw from, the young band has to play all its tunes, good and not-so-good.
Even then, it only amounted to an hour of music.
From the first note, Lee stole the show. Dressed in a white frilly
skirt, black combat boots and tank top with stripey armbands, she looked like the offspring of Cyndi Lauper and Siouxie Sioux,
or perhaps even Madonna, part Like A Virgin, part Frozen.
Full of energy, Lee jumped and twirled about a stage decorated
with chain curtains and metal hooks, flicking her long hair around and smiling sweetly. It's too bad you couldn't hear a word
Evanescence has a highly processed, spooky metal sound, a difficult thing to mix live. It thus came through
like a distorted, synthesized mush, with Lee's vocals suffering most. None of the young crowd seemed to care: Since Fallen
has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, they already know every word to hits like Going Under, Everybody's Fool and
Even when Lee played ballads on a black grand piano, she had the same "ether to a scream" vocals. Even
the quiet tunes kicked in to blasting guitar rock, a bit of piano plunking on top.
And it's too bad Lee, speaking
little, didn't make up for it with charm. In just 50 minutes, the band was encoring with a Smashing Pumpkins cover while a
good chunk of the audience fled. Evanescence is Lee, so her shortcomings were deeply felt. Since the departure of guitarist
Ben Moody, the band's co-founder and main songwriter, it's unclear what the future holds for the band. Certainly, the musicians
backing Lee at the Amphitheatre were anonymous.
Still, Evanescence's romantic, feminine stylings are a welcome break
from the macho metal and puerile punk fed to kids this decade. (As exemplified by faux punk openers Three Days Grace, who
admit writing songs about "being stuck at home with nothing to do.") If they make it back, hopefully they'll sound as good
as they look.
SHORT, NOT SO SWEET
An ordinary night for an ordinary band
Ottawa, ON - Corel Centre
July 19, 2004
Courtesy of the Ottawa Sun
OTTAWA -- I'm having a hard time understanding how a voice so smooth and high could make me feel like Kramer
in that Seinfeld episode.
You know the one in which the sound of Entertainment Tonight host Mary Hart's pleasant banter
kept causing him to have a seizure?
It's just hard to understand why the very ordinary Evanescence -- who produced
a debut album with several synthetic hit songs barely indistinguishable from one another and one very overwrought ballad --
have made it so very big.
They've sold more than 10 million albums since Fallen was released in March of 2003, earned
two Grammys, lost a founding member and toured relentlessly.
A band with strong Christian roots -- they're not Megadeath,
but those origins have all but vanished -- the band seems to have weathered the loss of founding member Ben Moody, likely
due to the focus on lead singer Amy Lee.
With her Elvira-esque hair, the outspoken 22-year-old Little Rock goth goddess
-- the one who reminds me of Kramer and Mary Hart -- is to be admired for espousing a healthy girlpower that doesn't involve
bare midriffs, tiny puppies and handbags or eating disorders to her young fans.
show at the Corel Centre (as the big finale to a four-act night), drew 7,600 people and captured the dark appeal which has
surely made the band so popular. My allergy to Lee's voice aside, it was a no-nonsense, capable effort from a group with a
full year of practice playing to crowds in stadiums across North America.
Puffs of mist drifted from backstage while
the band prepared to go on. By the time they took the stage, the right mystical underworld effect had been created. Lee bounded
out, all black hair and ethereal white flowing skirts (over pants, how chic) and proceeded with her high-pitched wail, which
became just as monotonous after about six songs live as it sounds on radio in the middle of one.
That didn't stop
the crowd from going wild for the maudlin, nonsensical ballad My Immortal, singing every drippy, "When you cried I wiped away
all of your tears," word and screaming in delight as Lee got all Barry Manilow on the baby grand.
"Hit it," she yelled,
as the crowd took the mike.
In the end the band reproduced well on stage, sounding better and heavier live -- boosting
even the ballads -- than their overproduced studio stuff on the familiar Going Under, Bring Me To Life and newer Everybody's
Just an hour
But at just over an hour in length -- no wonder they have so many bands on tour
with them -- the show was, like the music, nothing special.
The evening started with up-and-comers Breaking Benjamin,
moved on the South African-born band Seether (lead singer Shaun Morgan has dated Lee for more than a year; the pair sing together
on Broken, another heartbreaking ballad getting lots of radio play and turning up on Seether's Disclaimer II).
up were Toronto-based heavy rockers Three Days Grace, a band born in the tiny Peterborough-area town of Norwood.
to lead singer-guitarist Adam Gontier belt out (I Hate) Everything About You I have to wonder just how long those powerful
pipes are going to last.
My throat hurt just listening.
But at least I didn't feel like I was Kramer hearing