“You may know this song,” Evanescence singer Amy Lee uttered demurely nine songs into the group’s headlining set Tuesday night at the Congress Theatre. “It’s the song that got us here.” Understatement of the year.
Without “Bring Me to Life,” the ubiquitous rap-rock confection featured on Fallen, the Little Rock, Arkansas, troupe would be far more concerned finding people who can pronounce “Evanescence” than finding wall space for their double-platinum album.
Now, only five months after the release of Fallen, Evanescence are headlining the Nintendo Fusion Tour, a 20-date excursion that has the band performing after Cold, the group that’s earned the respect of everyone from Fred Durst to Rivers Cuomo (the Weezer frontman appears on Cold’s latest album, Year of the Spider), but whose three albums together haven’t sold half as well as Fallen.
While some watched openers Revis and Cauterize perform inside the cavernous, ready-for-demolition sweat factory (a.k.a. the Congress Theatre), others killed time before Evanescence and Cold by playing Nintendo video games like “Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg” and “Soul Calibur II” at any of the 12 Nintendo game consoles spread out over three kiosks in the venue’s atrium.
With only two albums under their belt – the first of which, Origin, only their family members own – Evanescence began their 55-minute set with the aplomb and pomp and circumstance of alt-rock vets. When the black curtain dropped, Lee – dressed in a frilly black-and-white skirt, black-and-white tights, mock fur-crowned top, black combat boots, and resembling a young, lean Exene Cervenka – stood out among her black-clothed bandmates. She stood spotlighted on a platform above the drum riser and almost immediately her soaring, ethereal voice resonated above the chunky rhythms of “Haunted.”
One never knows how much patchwork is done in the studio to sweeten a singer’s sour notes. It’s fairly obvious listening to Lee live that the engineer working on Fallen didn’t log much overtime. While guitarists John LeCompt and Ben Moody and bassist Will Boyd served up crunchy rhythms, stentorian power chords and assorted electro-swirls, Lee’s voice was the fortunate foil, the band’s not-so-secret weapon. Her reliable bursts took songs like “Tourniquet” and “Everybody’s Fool” to a new level. However, a cover of the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Zero” was derailed by weak replication of the hook and the fact that the snarling song didn’t befit Lee’s impressive range. On the Fallen version of “Bring Me to Life,” it’s 12 Stones frontman Paul McCoy who bitch-slap-raps “Wake me up/ I can’t wake up/ Save me!,” but here it was LeCompt pulling double duty. The guitarist did an adequate job imitating McCoy while he laid down the song’s fiery, Iron Maiden-esque riff.
Even though it was “Bring Me to Life” that got them there, the encore-opening, Enya-inspired “My Immortal” was the group’s most memorable moment. Lee appeared alone onstage and, with grace and beauty, played piano while she crooned the delicate, heartfelt ballad.
Ballads of the tear-jerking variety are anathema to Cold. Throughout the band’s 10-song set, everything was heavy – sentiment included. During “Cure My Tragedy (A Letter to God),” frontman Scooter Ward was doubled over – as if he were dry-heaving, exorcising demons or both – and cried, “Won’t you take and give her pain to me,” his touching anecdote about his sister’s ovarian cancer.
Sporting a black baseball cap, Ward paced the stage like an expectant father, his booming, grunge-by-numbers voice plodding through such new songs as “Suffocate,” “Don’t Belong” and “Stupid Girl,” the hit single off Year of the Spider. Ward didn’t have much to say between songs other than, “We’re Cold and the year of the spider is good.” Visually, the band was far from stunning, with only green and red projections of, you guessed it, spiders, and guitarist Terry Balsamo’s constant dreadlock-flipping conveying any real zeal.