Very recently, the Classic Metal Hawk left his Classic Heavy Metal comfort zone for something more modern – the Evanescence Worlds Collide Tour 2022. The term ‘Modern’ might be a bit of a stretch – Evanescence were formed back in 1995 in Little Rock, Arkansas – so have been around for well over 20 years in one form or another. Still, they are decidedly not from that late 70s / 80s classic metal sweet spot, so are definitely a change of scenery as far as The Hawk is concerned.
Evanescence – Who Are They?
According to Wikipedia, the band constitutes a combination of Gothic Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. Or possibly Symphonic Metal. Or Nu Metal. OK.
Evanescence are synonymous with Amy Lee. Founder member, lead singer, pianist, keyboard player and the only constant presence from day one following many line-up changes along the way. The band was first formed by Lee and guitarist Ben Moody, not long after they met at a youth camp as teenagers. Lee wanted to form a band that would combine extreme sounds – cinematic and classical symphonic on one hand, married to heavy metal, hard rock and alternative on the other. The band’s name was basically a happy accident – Lee wanted an original name to represent their chosen mix of styles, and came across the word ‘evanescence’, which according to the Oxford Dictionary means ‘ disappearing quickly from sight or memory.’ You might argue with that choice as the moniker for a group that want to make a more lasting impression, but anyway, Lee found the work beautiful and elusive, and decided to go with it.
Progress was slow in the early years – by 2003, 8 years after getting together, the band had recorded 3 EPs – ‘Evanescence EP’ (1998), ‘Sound Asleep EP’ (1999) and ‘Mystary EP’ (2003) – and also a demo CD ‘Origin’ in 2000. These recordings garnered them some local success, with airplay on an Arkansas radio station, and the beginnings of a fan base. They were able to play some bigger shows and make a little money.
Persistence eventually paid off, however, when Evanescence, still consisting of only Lee and Moody, were signed by Wind Up Records. But tensions surfaced pretty much right away. Although the suits at Wind Up thought a song like ‘My Immortal’ would be a hit, they still didn’t really know how to handle the band’s overall style and combination of influences. The whole relationship almost crashed and burned in its infancy when the band refused the record company’s demand for a male co-vocalist and their push for a more commercial direction.
The Big Break
The dispute escalated to a point where the band were released from their contract – basically dumped by the roadside. But after a brief hiatus, the ice thawed and a compromise was agreed for a male rapper to appear on the single ‘Bring Me to Life’. The first album on Wind Up, ‘Fallen’ was eventually completed and released in 2005. It notched up eventual sales of over 17 million, plus 6 Grammy nominations and 2 wins. The band were on their way.
Can We Hear About The Gig?
Yes, indeed we can. That’s enough history – this article is supposed to be a live review of an Evanescence Worlds Collide Tour 2022 gig, PLUS a chance for The Hawk to see whether he’s too old to add a new sound to his repertoire. And there was some optimism on the way into the auditorium.
After all the Covid hiatus, it’s obviously a welcome relief to be back out listening to live music of the heavy variety, and Evanescence certainly delivered on that.
Their sound is very heavy. The twin guitars are down-tuned to a ludicrous degree to get the trademark grungy tone – but there’s also plenty of melodic light and shade, in part via the piano and keyboards sprinkled throughout, plus the occasion guitar lead. But really, it’s Lee’s voice that steals the show. Her range and power are stunning, and her ability to command the stage are exceptional. Especially when you consider that shyness and stage fright were significant concerns of their management back in the Wind-Up records days.
The vocals are showcased from the off with ‘Broken Pieces Shine’, a recent offering from the 2021 album ‘The Bitter Truth’, and ‘Made of Stone’ from the 2011’s ‘Evanescence’. The latter is especially impressive – Lee’s vocals get a full workout in the chorus, and the composition is full of emotion with impressive melodic additions from both piano and guitar.
But it’s the fourth song that really gets things going – that was ‘Going Under’, a single from that first album, Fallen, back in 2005. There’s the usual heavy guitar riff, pounding drums, and piano melodies which anyway sounds great. But it’s the live emotion that really makes this special. The song is about reaching the end of your tether, being at a point where you just can’t go on living as you are now. Lee conveys that sense of sheer desperation, and yet at the same time combines it with attitude and hope – hope for a new beginning. It’s all delivered with such breath-taking conviction and power. The Hawk defies anyone to listen to Lee singing that song live and not be moved by it.
In the middle part of the set, the band bring down the dynamic a little with a couple of piano centric numbers, ‘Far from Heaven’ and ‘Your Star’. Lee is again front and centre on the piano, (niftily delivered to the stage via a trapdoor) and shows that she loses none of her power or range through being seated at the keyboard.
After that, we start to build back the power and heaviness, towards a big climax. The Hawk’s favourite from that section was ‘Use My Voice’, also from ‘The Bitter Truth’ album. Lee hints at the power of the song’s message when introducing it to the crowd (‘Don’t let anyone speak for you!!’) and she delivers on the same message in spades throughout a strong performance.
The main chorus line (‘Don’t you speak for me!!’) is delivered with passion and conviction, and goes up to a whole new level again when Lee sings it whilst waving a Ukrainian flag handed up to her by a fan in the crowd. It’s one of the moments of the night, and a recap, at least for the Hawk, of why music matters, in its unrivalled ability to get a message across. Plenty of people have been trying to speak for Ukrainians over the past year – what they should do, what terms they must accept from a powerful and rank bully of a neighbour. Well guess what? They speak for themselves, and as of this writing, that’s going pretty well for them.
The set finishes with a couple of crowd-pleasers – ‘My Immortal’ and ‘Bring Me to Life’, both smash singles from the first album. And although not a follower of the band, even the Hawk thought he had probably heard these on the radio at some point.
But that shouldn’t detract from their quality. The band are now confident in their own skin – the male rapper on that last song has been ditched and rightly so. You wonder at first whether the song is meandering a little too much with the lone piano and vocal at the start, but then the heavy guitars and drums kick in to accompany the same melodies in the second part and it sounds great. The Hawk was buzzing at the end of that one.
The stage production was excellent – for a band accustomed to playing big venues, Evanescence went for quite an intimate set up, keeping quite close together on a reduced-size stage. But that decision was justified and complemented by the immense light show – focussed yet stirring down- and back-lighting, which served to emphasize the soaring music.
In contrast, co-headliners on the bill Within Temptation went for an expansive setup, a bigger stage, much heavier on the pyrotechnics and effects, with the visuals being dominated by a mask the size of an elephant. But sometimes less is more, and the Hawk had a clear preference for the Evanescence offering in this case.
(As this is the Hawk’s first ever live review for this blog, he’s focussing on only Evanescence for now. But Within Temptation also produced a hugely enjoyable performance from roughly the same genre. And their staging had some real highlights, such as lead singer Sharon den Adel soaring high above the audience on a swing.
Shout out also to opening act Veridia, who were more technically limited, but have in Deena Jakoub a singer of impressive power. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house following their number about her recently deceased father, with Amy Lee joining her on stage.)
The Hawk Converted?
Did The Hawk enjoy the Evanescence Worlds Collide Tour 2022 show? Is he now an Evanescence convert? Yes, indeed he is. So, look, old birds can learn new tricks, and after this gig, Classic Metal Hawk is determined to be open minded about new forms of metal. The blog will continue mostly in the more classic vein of most of the articles thus far, but with no objections to occasional ‘guest posts’ about other stuff like this. Life is a journey, and ruling out new experiences seems silly, especially after we were all denies the lifeblood of gigs for so long. Get yourselves out their no matter who is in town.
And don’t forget to send in your own reviews when you do – just head on over to The Hawk’s Community page.
Do Evanescence belong in The Hawk’s Classic Heavy Metal canon? Are you anyway a fan – and if so, what are some of your own top Evanescence numbers?
Share your thoughts in the comments below, or send feedback direct to The Hawk.