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Review: Lindsey Stirling, Evanescence team up for a night of contrasts - and a little self-help

Lindsey Stirling plays at PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte on July 21, 2018.
Lindsey Stirling plays at PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte on July 21, 2018.

Rock band Evanescence and dancing violin virtuoso Lindsey Stirling stopped in Charlotte Friday night on their 31-city summer tour, and while both acts showcased what they do best, Charlotte fans got lucky with the line-up.

Why? Because the two acts are alternating who goes first in each city, and while Friday night’s audience may have been split over who they were most excited to see, Evanescence’s dark-and-stormy feel would have been a tough pill to swallow after the colorful, high-octane feast Stirling served up.

Both Stirling and Evanescence are trying something new this tour: pairing up in each city with a local orchestra, which here in Charlotte consisted of about 30 musicians (including a harpist, sadly hard to detect for much of the night).

The orchestra was oddly divided in half on both sides of the stage (how the large string section on the left could see the conductor, standing on the right side of the stage in front of the brass and percussion, was a mystery), and while lead singer Amy Lee’s vocals often drowned out the orchestra she praised throughout her set, there were times when the backup musicians shined, such as in the ballad “Lithium,” where Lee’s vocal strength and piano wizardry were also on full display.

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Evanescence lead vocalist Amy Lee performs at PNC Music Pavilion on July 20, 2018. Benjamin Robson

Once it was Stirling’s turn (it was thankfully a more tolerable 81 degrees by the time she started her set at 9:45 p.m.), the stage – and Stirling - seemed Technicolor by contrast.

And from then on it was the pure, joyous Stirling the audience came for: high kicks and pique-turns around the stage, four high-energy backup dancers, five costume changes and just enough well-used scenery – gravestones for “Moon Trance,” and a disco ball (or was it a crystal ball?) for “Crystalize.”

There’s no wonder she made it to second place in last year’s “Dancing With the Stars” competition - she’s got serious dancing chops that were most giddily on display during the lively “Roundtable Rival.”

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Lindsey Stirling performs at PNC Music Pavilion on July 20, 2018. Benjamin Robson

The only time Stirling stood still was for the jaw-dropping “Take Flight,” when she stepped onto a platform and was raised some 30-feet in the air (a huge swath of billowing cloth extended from her waist to the ground, making a giant skirt-like effect).

The rest of the time one was left wondering: is it really possible to create such violin riffs while jumping up a flight of stairs two at a time? Or bending over backward, pointing the violin scroll to the heavens? Or climbing out of a tomb-like glass cage?

In the end, does it matter? Stirling has taken an art form that rarely draws a packed audience in the tens of thousands and has made it so more than 10 million people subscribe to see her play violin on YouTube.

Both Stirling and Lee took the time to praise their backup orchestra on many occasions - for Stirling, the musicians were put to best use for the night’s final song, a passionate rendition of Phantom of the Opera’s “Music of the Night.”

Stirling took time to address the audience multiple times Friday night (speaking into a microphone had to have been a huge relief after the incredible calisthenics of practically every song), and you could see why she’s about to add “motivational speaker” to her list of skill sets.

The crowd hushed when she described her struggles with anorexia and depression, and cheered when she became emotional about seeing her dream of touring with Evanescence realized. (She shared a charming home video from 2002 of her then-15-year-old self dancing out to “Bring Me to Life.”)

“I am living proof that you can make the unbelievable happen. It’s all up to you,” she told the crowd. “Visualize your dreams, see them as if they’re real. It’s all about getting up every time you fall down.”

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