SAN JOSE — Two of modern rock’s heavyweight vocalists teamed up for a powerhouse bill at SAP Center. Amy Lee of Evanescence and Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale showed off their formidable vocal prowess during their band’s respective sets, even joining forces multiple times throughout the night. The tour was not only a long time coming for fans, but even longer for the bands.
“It’s been two years since we’ve played live!” Lee said early on in her band’s set.
Bay Area fans likely have to go back even further. Evanescence played two Northern California dates with an orchestra on its Synthesis Tour; otherwise, the clock needs to be wound back to a 2011 appearance at Oakland’s Fox Theater. For this tour, the band broke out some of its most elaborate set design ever, with a tiered stage with laser lights and a triangular video screen.
Evanescence avoided nostalgia or a greatest hits set, instead going for a showcase of the band in its present form. Playing nearly all of its latest release, The Bitter Truth, the current lineup has gelled and that chemistry showed in the performance. The band opened with a duo of dramatic brooding rockers in “Broken Pieces Shine” and “Made Of Stone” before ripping through ferocious new track “Take Cover.”
Lee was the focal point throughout the set, commanding both sides of the stage and attacking the front as the tempo built to a crescendo. Her vocals were stunning from the first note to last. No hill was too steep to overcome. The singer didn’t address the crowd often, but when she did, she made the words count. Lee seemed to be on the verge of tears as she introduced older track “Lithium.” She addressed the pandemic and the suffering and loss many have felt, urging the crowd to not become desensitized by the onslaught of bad news and still feel the pain of tragedy.
Drummer Will Hunt used every piece of his sprawling drum set. Guitarist Troy McLawhorn and bassist Tim McCord supplied the down-tuned riffs and low end, while guitarist Jen Majura rounded out the sound with stellar backing vocals.
Some of the sets highest points came during the band’s lesser-known songs. Infusing elements from Synthesis, “End of the Dream” was spectacular in both stage design and performance. Midway through the set, a “home movie” video montage ran with scenes from throughout the band’s career before launching into the thunderous “Better Without You.”
“We thought it would be really funny to play the longest set we’ve ever played,” Lee quipped midway through the performance. The 19-track, 90-minute set certainly gave fans their money’s worth. Lee brought Hale out to sing together on a cover of a heavy Linkin Park song, on which both singers’ complementary vocals shined. It was the second time the two appeared on stage together. Lee also joined Hale to perform Halestorm’s “Break In” earlier in the show. The mutual admiration the two singers hold for each other was apparent and infectious.
Lee got the South Bay crowd singing along on the anthemic “Use My Voice” as well as the band’s breakthrough hit, “Bring Me To Life.” After a short encore break, Lee took to the piano to perform ballad “My Immortal” before the rest of the band returned to close things out in dramatic fashion with new track “Blind Belief.”
Halestorm also owned the stage, opening with thundering new track “Back From the Dead,” serving as a rallying cry for Hale and co. on a number of levels. The band kept its set upbeat and riff-heavy, focusing on its heaviest rockers in an 11-song set. Hale also showed off her own vocal power, but in a contrasting way to Lee. There seemed to be no limits when she pushed her vocal to a near-scream on closer “I Miss the Misery.”
Along with guitarist Joe Hottinger, bassist Josh Smith and drummer Arejay Hale, Halestorm ripped through songs like “Do Not Disturb” and “I Get Off.” Donning a black leather cap, Hale showed off her own guitar skills, matching Hottinger’s solos multiple times on the handful of extended jams the band mixed into the set. Her brother, Areyjay Hale, performed a lively drum solo (including an appearance of his oversized drum sticks. The band concluded with one of its most dynamic tracks in “Black Vultures” before finishing with the anthemic rockers “Freak Like Me” and “I Miss the Misery.”
Also deserving an honorable mention were the evening’s openers, Plush. The young rockers delivered a phenomenal set, fusing ’80s rock with grunge and modern hard rock. Singer and guitarist Moriah Formica is a powerhouse vocalist in her own right, belting out the band’s material as well as a cover of Heart’s “Barracuda” (in the home of the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda, no less). Some fans arriving to the show were caught off guard by the early start. Plush began well before the 7:30 p.m. start time printed on tickets.
The tour may have overshot slightly in playing the large SAP Center, but the thousands in attendance more then made up for it by cheering and singing along throughout the show.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.