MUSIC

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Evanescence

Good goth! Evanescence came to the 9:30 club on Wednesday looking like a band that's beaten back the Best New Artist curse.

The Arkansas act took a big blow on the way to bringing home, in 2004, the one Grammy that has been a booby prize for so many performers (Starland Vocal Band, Milli Vanilli, Jody Watley, etc.). Co-founder and alleged musical mastermind Ben Moody quit while the band's debut, "Fallen," was on its way to selling more than 10 million copies. That left Evanescence to singer Amy Lee -- but so long as Lee is flailing fists and/or devil's horns and wailing about drowning or sinking to the underworld, the Grammy hoodoo doesn't stand a chance.

The show was a very dark affair: Lee was dressed in all black, backed by a quartet of men in black who played black drums and mostly black guitars. And Lee's lyrics are as black as the eye shadow worn by so many fans. Yet nothing was blacker than the band's bottom line: Lee announced to the sold-out house that Evanescence's brand new CD, "The Open Door," had just hit No. 1 on the album charts.

Much of the 75-minute set came from that disc -- "Sweet Sacrifice," "Lacrymosa" and "Weight of the World," among others -- and generally flaunted the same pseudo-Christian imagery that got Lee and Moody pegged as God-squadders early on. One exception: "Call Me When You're Sober," a new kiss-off to a substance-abusing special friend that's the least mystical song in the Evanescence songbook.

There's a sameness to the sound of the new and old songs. The Evanescence PA system needs no midrange knobs: Every tune featured a bottom end made of chunka-chunka detuned guitars and synthesized drums, which Lee soars over in a metallic soprano that falls somewhere between Heart's Ann Wilson and Maria Callas. Before a set-ending "My Immortal," Lee addressed the few fans in the room who might be scared off by the visual and aural darkness. When the band returns next year, she said, "you can bring your mom."

-- Dave McKenna

The Beaux Arts Trio

Pianist Menahem Pressler, now in his early 80s, has presided over numerous editions of the legendary Beaux Arts Trio, which he founded more than half a century ago (he's currently on his fifth violinist and third cellist). The latest version, heard Wednesday at the Library of Congress's Coolidge Auditorium, includes British violinist Daniel Hope and Brazilian cellist Antonio Meneses. They may be younger and more energetic than their senior colleague, but the group's musicmaking as a whole has a gentle, almost porcelain quality. The string players' expression and color come more from subtlety of bowing than from their left hands. The intense slides and voluptuous vibrato of the original Beaux Arts strings are here replaced with a lambent, silky sound reflecting Pressler's increasingly austere playing.

The trio's weighty program consisted of Schubert's celebrated Trio in B, Op. 99, and the brief Nocturne, D. 897, the Shostakovich E Minor Trio and a new work by Mark-Anthony Turnage. In the Schubert works, the lean string sound sometimes seemed to want color, but the approach was clearly a deliberate choice of the artists, one that allowed them to draw longer lines with more clarity. Although Schubert's expressive accents were missing from the sublime opening theme in the Andante of the B-flat Trio, the phrasing elsewhere was delicious, with perfectly judged balances.

The brief Turnage work, "A Slow Pavane," combined old and new in engaging ways, with fine craftsmanship and characterful thematic material. The harrowing Shostakovich Trio was given a brilliant performance that elicited a standing ovation.

-- Robert Battey


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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