The best new artist Grammy
has been a curse as often as it's been a blessing. Just ask Paula Cole,
Hootie and the Blowfish, Arrested Development or Marc Cohn, all of whom
followed winning the prestigious prize by doing nothing particularly
This year's victor, the Arkansas goth-pop band Evanescence, has sold
almost 4 million copies of its debut album, "Fallen." The quintet showed no
signs of rising above the hex when it performed a sold-out show at the
Congress Theatre on Wednesday night, but this isn't to say that its set was
The group is hardly a band at all anymore: Guitarist Ben Moody, who
co-wrote all of the songs with vocalist Amy Lee, abruptly quit last year in
the middle of a tour and during the band's rise to the top of the charts.
(He has gone on to work with pop-punk princess Avril Lavigne and American
Idol Kelly Clarkson.)
But Lee commanded attention at the Congress as a whirling dervish with a
long, flowing black mane, a witchy presence and a supple but penetrating
voice. As she wailed her way through the band's hit single "Bring Me to
Life" several thousand fans sang along with every word, and it was clear
that she is on her way to becoming a star.
The band's sound is a schizophrenic mix of stomping nu-metal, ambient
gothic melodrama, Christian-rock imagery (it shares a label with the
similarly inclined Creed, though it has been trying to distance itself from
the Christian market) and a heaping dollop of old-fashioned (circa the early
'90s) alternative-rock angst.
In addition to playing nearly every song from its debut during a skimpy,
hourlong set, Evanescence trotted out unremarkable covers of the Smashing
Pumpkins' "Zero" and Soundgarden's "Jesus Christ Pose." (So much for dumping
the Christian tag.)
Lee's backing musicians proved themselves to be a thoroughly generic
bunch, hammering home the plodding rhythms and mechanical shred-guitar
parts, with added decoration from atmospheric keyboard drones that seemed to
be coming from a programmed DAT tape.
But the 22-year-old singer showed how little she needs her supporting
cast during a mid-set, mostly solo turn at the grand piano, where she was
transformed for several tunes into a teeny-bopper version of Tori Amos.
It remains to be seen whether Lee has anything to say beyond evoking
cliche-ridden Christian images and wallowing in depressed misery in her
lyrics, or if she can write melodies as anthemic as the one that drives
"Bring Me to Life" on her own without help from Moody.
But contrary to what gangsta rapper and best new artist loser 50 Cent
might think, Lee was the most worthy of the Grammy nominees in this year's
category on the strength of her charisma alone. And that may well carry her
into a more suitable setting for her talents in the future.