Evanescence lead singer Amy Lee made the leap from goth-rocker to opera diva last night, as she and the band led a 28-piece orchestra through a sold-out performance at the Greek Theatre Sunday night, previewing the group’s fourth album, “Synthesis,” which comes out November 10.
Both the concert and the album — Evanescence’s first since its self-titled 2011 effort — offer a reimagining of the group’s catalog with a full symphony orchestra, arranged by none other than Beck’s father, veteran arranger David Campbell, whose collaboration with the band dates back to its first album. The concert was the second of Evanescence’s current “Synthesis Live” tour, as they team up with a different symphony orchestra (under the direction of conductor Susie Seiter) in each city for an 80-minute, 18-song set.
Looking more like Maria Callas than Grace Slick in a billowing floor-length black gown with a plunging neckline, Lee firmly re-establishes herself as one of rock’s pre-eminent vocalists, exhibiting an impressive range that still packs a wallop, this time cutting through a full orchestra. Although the set includes just two new songs (the single “Imperfection” and the encore, “Speak to Me,” performed solo by Lee for the film “Voice From the Stone” earlier this year), there is also “Hi Lo” (a 10-year-old song recorded for the first time on the new album) and a pair of newly composed orchestral/piano interludes. Still, she and the ensemble turn the familiar material — including crowd favorites like the Grammy-winning “Bring Me to Life,” “My Immortal,” “Lithium” and “Your Star” — into full-throttle, wide-screen epics, its themes of loss, guilt and self-doubt enlarged to tragedy on the Greek proscenium.
The arrangements substitute strings, woodwinds, brass, synths and drum machines for electric guitars and bass, while maintaining drummer Will Hunt’s booming beats (augmented on-stage by album co-producer William B. Hunt); it finds the band’s sound evolving from its nu-metal/post-grunge origins to, naturally, a synthesis of rock, classical and EDM. It’s the same symphonic canvas first established by such Evanescence songs as “Lacrymosa” (based on Mozart’s “Requiem”), “My Heart Is Broken” and “End of the Dream,” all of which originally featured Campbell arrangements.
And while Lee is the focal point, she has been quick to acknowledge the contributions of the rest of Evanescence — guitarists Jen Majura and Troy McLawhorn and bassist Tim McCord, along with drummer Hunt — in making the album.
Seated at the piano, her long hair flowing freely down her back, Lee begins with the somber “Never Go Back,” from the band’s self-titled third album, inspired by watching TV images of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami which devastated Tokyo. “End of the Dream,” also from that album, starts slowly, segueing into a vaguely Middle Eastern/Indian feel, before Lee hits one of the evening’s frequent, gut-busting high notes.
“It is a dream to be doing this here with you… I’m crumbling inside,” she said to the audience — a wide-ranging, all-ages crowd that featured both goths and Valley couples. Other high points include Lee on the piano for Evanescence’s (no, not Nirvana’s) “Lithium” and a crowd-pleasing “Bring Me to Life,” minus the recording’s mid-song rap by 12 Stones’ Paul McCoy, the combination of the two Hunts’ traditional and electronic drums grounding its baroque reach.
Strings carry the melody in “Secret Door” while the pounding drums keep things rooted in rock, and “Lost in Paradise” sounds like a Broadway musical libretto, with Lee belting out the refrain like Celine Dion leaning into “My Heart Will Go On.”
The encore included “Speak to Me,” followed by an eerie piano that led into “Good Enough” and “Swimming Home,” with its defining line, “Nothing can hold me.” For Lee and many members of the crowd, it was a night for exorcising demons.