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Evanescence - O2 Apollo, Manchester (UK) - 02 April 2018

I have only seen Evanescence once before. That was back in October 2003, at this very same venue (where did all those years go?). At the time they were receiving a great deal of exposure on the back of the 'Bring Me To Life' single which was also on constant rotation on the MTV Rock channels. A lot has changed in terms of personnel since those days. In fact, founder member and song-writer Ben Moody left before that UK tour began. 2017 saw the release of the 'Synthesis' album, which contained many of the band's well-known songs, alongside two new tracks, arranged and performed with a full orchestra. This current tour was promoted as a live realisation of that album. It seemed on paper to be an interesting and challenging prospect as a different orchestra was to be utilised for each venue rather than taking an extra thirty musicians on the road.

Having arrived at The Apollo, the long queues winding round the building bore testament to the sold-out signs for all the UK dates. My seat was in the circle for the show and this proved to be a more than suitable location to see everyone on stage. There was no support act for the show, but the orchestra did perform a number of well-known classical compositions which included 'La Chasse', 'Moonlight Sonata' and 'Lacrimosa' during a thirty minute warm-up before the main event began shortly after. It was a very different atmosphere to any other gig I've been to and the fact everyone was seated lent itself to a subdued but on the whole refined evening's entertainment.

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The band took to the stage and were situated practically in darkness, almost as part of the orchestra. Only drummer Will Hunt was visible to the rear as the lighting found him sat behind an electronic kit amongst several other percussionists. From the first moment to the last it was clear who was to be the star and main focal point of the show. Amy Lee walked on stage to a hero's welcome and the spotlight never left her for the next ninety minutes. Her voice was perfectly suited to the new arrangements and, at times, her delivery was jaw-dropping. Whether stood centre stage or behind the piano, it was difficult not to follow her every move. Some of the songs seemed to work better than others with the new arrangements, but the power behind the music was never in doubt, even without two guitars, bass and drums blasting through speakers. The aforementioned 'Bring Me To Life' received the greatest reception and it was a different take on this familiar Gothic Metal standard. For me, the highlight of the set was a sensational 'My Immortal' which featured just Lee accompanied by piano and strings. Hairs on the back of the neck were all present and correct and the singing was flawless. This was closely followed by 'My Heart Is Broken', 'Lithium', 'Imaginary' and one of the new songs from 'Synthesis' called 'Hi-Lo'. The use of an orchestra gave an epic feel to the material, though it was unusual to see Lee with somewhat curbed enthusiasm in terms of stage movement.

My only reservation about the show, despite the quality and the performances, was the use of the other members of the band. In this format it was more like a Lee solo show rather than an Evanescence show. Tim McCord (bass), Troy McLawhorn (guitar) and Jen Majura (guitar/vocals) were sat in darkness for the whole set and only appeared at the end to take their bows. They could have been session musicians and were, in the main, underused and surplus to requirements amongst the thirty-piece orchestra. A great night for a number of different reasons... maybe I'll consider a ballet or an opera next.

Dave Bott

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