October 9, 2018 Evanescence – Synthesis Live (DVD Review)
Last fall, Amy Lee and Evanescence returned with the superb Synthesis, and took the album on the road with a full orchestral accompaniment. Now, for those who missed these exceptional live performances, Evanescence and Eagle Rock Entertainment have combined forces to present the brand new DVD/Blu-ray and live CD, Synthesis Live, which arrives on Friday, October 12, 2018.
Grammy Award-winning Evanescence was founded in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1995. Much has changed since those early days, and over the past twenty-three years, the group – which now features Vocalist/Pianist Amy Lee as its sole original member – have officially released three albums – 2003’s Fallen, 2006’s The Open Door, and 2011’s Evanescence – along with 2016’s B-sides collection, Lost Whispers. Touring the world and racking up accolades, the group has become synonymous with early 2000’s Alternative Rock, thanks largely in-fact to their mega-hit singles “Bring Me to Life” and “My Immortal.”
Fast forward to 2017’s Synthesis, a Neo-Classical re-imagining of the group’s musical catalogue, one that included a conglomeration of sounds, electronics pulsing alongside celestial strings, all anchored by Lee’s lofty vocal theatrics. Here, Evanescence – Lee, Lead Guitarist/Backing Vocalist Troy McLawhorn, Guitarist/Backing Vocalist Jen Majura, Bassist Tim McCord, and Drummer Will Hunt – reintroduced themselves as a vital force on today’s musical scene.
Shortly before its release, to support their impressive collection, Lee and her band took Synthesis on the road with the support of a full backing-orchestra – composed of strings, brass, woodwinds, and a harp – conducted by the talented Susie Seiter, with arrangements authored by David Campbell. This tour – with sold out performances across the U.S. – would provide the material for the DVD we are here to discuss, Synthesis Live.
Filmed in Fall 2017 at the Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resorts Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut, Synthesis Live is just that: a live performance of nineteen songs that clocks in at roughly 83 minutes in duration. It is not, however, an exact replication of its namesake album, no: the songs here largely overlap the Synthesis track listing, but there are some surprises.
Synthesis Live opens as Ms. Lee strolls across the stage, clad in a beautifully flowing red gown, to take her place behind the piano. Uproarious applause welcomes her and the band to the stage, and so our journey begins. They open with “Never Go Back,” and from the very first second it is abundantly clear that Lee’s pipes are indeed as strong as ever. The arrangements throughout are similar to Synthesis: Lee’s powerhouse vocals, her band, electronic dustings, and a full orchestral accompaniment. The sound is, therefore, massive, and the music is the highlight of this entire DVD: there are no frills or flashy backdrops, merely a superb musical performance.
Fan favorite “Lacrymosa” sounds massive, but retains its bespelling beauty, while there is a spine-tingling quality to the dramatic pauses injected into “Taking Over Me.” Lee follows these with “My Heart Is Broken,” which takes on a particular weighty significance in our current, heated political climate. She does not provide a lot of onstage banter between songs, but can you blame the lady? The power of those pipes must be conserved for her flawless delivery.
Of course, Lee does take a moment during the performance to note that sharing the stage with an orchestra has been a lifelong, childhood dream. Then, the crowd explodes as she begins the lead into “Lithium,” which receives a re-imagining that is guaranteed to bring you chills. Similarly, the crowd welcomes the hit-single “Bring Me to Life” with open arms.
To remind us that she is not merely a vocal siren, Lee provides a dazzling piano introduction on “Imaginary,” before the song builds into a massive, layered production that is one of the most epic moments throughout the entire show. This flows into “Secret Door” and the brand-new track “Hi-Lo,” off Synthesis – which had not yet been released at the time of this recording. Despite this fact, “Hi-Lo” fits beautifully within the set-list and was welcomed by the rapt audience.
“Lost In Paradise” and “Your Star” do not have the grandiosity of some of the other songs performed herein, and therefore lack a kind of excitement by comparison. However, let’s make this clear: nothing performed on Synthesis Live is ever bad or lacking; there are just some tracks that do not communicate the same level of awe-inspiring power as others.
Bouncing back, Lee thanks the audience and the fans for breathing new life and further meaning into the next song, the beautifully emotional “My Immortal.” To allow the weight of its grandeur to resonate, Lee takes a moment in the spotlight for her fancy piano finger-work (“The In-Between”), before introducing another new offering, “Imperfection.” It is an offering that dances into funkier territory, injecting more electronic beats into the mix and allowing for a breath of fresh air.
The twinkling, delicate “Speak to Me” follows, and then Lee confesses that she has a daily, internal debate and that, despite our need to perpetually question ourselves, we should all believe that we are “Good Enough.” Riding the high of this sentiment, they end with the sweeping atmospherics of “Swimming Home” – with Majura’s vocal harmonies providing a pitch-perfect complement to Lee.
If you were in the audience and are hoping to spot yourself, good luck! The audience shots are few and far between, though the filmmakers do a beautiful job of capturing all of the myriad, onstage musicians and the lovely Ms. Lee. In fact, it’s important to reiterate that there are very little flourishes here: just a golden voice and some exceptional musicianship.
As with the album of the same name, Synthesis Live was a tour that served to show that Amy Lee hasn’t gone anywhere and her voice is still one of the brightest in Rock. In proving this, there is a minimalism to this performance, one that belies the massive intricacy of the music that is performed throughout. Here, Lee stands and belts out her heart – there are no flashy backdrops, no gaudy embellishments; just music. If you love Evanescence and believe in Lee’s talents, Synthesis Live will only serve to bolster your faith. If you’re not already a fan, well, get your ears checked! For these reasons, CrypticRock give Evanescence’s Synthesis Live 4.5 of 5 stars.