If you've ever watched a few moments of a Shania Twain primetime special, or caught a bit of a song from any of her numerous appearances on awards shows, or even just happened to be paying the slightest bit of attention to her during the last Super Bowl halftime show, then you essentially know all you need to about Shania! Twain! Live!

If you’ve ever watched a few moments of a Shania Twain primetime special, or caught a bit of a song from any of her numerous appearances on awards shows, or even just happened to be paying the slightest bit of attention to her during the last Super Bowl halftime show, then you essentially know all you need to about the Shania! Twain! Live! (or Up! World Tour 2003, by its real name) experience — an energetic, well-paced, people-pleasing run-through of pre-recorded music.

Like Twain herself, the show was visually arresting and aurally flawless. But it was ultimately and sadly confined by the slavish notion of having her surrounded by plenty of hip, colorful “performers” who all appear capable of playing several instruments and harmonizing through wireless headset mikes breathlessly … all while hamming it up at strategic points onstage throughout the evening.

Rendered in-the-round (about as intimate as the Pond is going to get) with overhead vid screens, the show afforded everyone a good view of the singer as she glad-handed fans in the front rows while occasional fireworks punctuated 20-plus songs culled from her last three discs, produced by husband Robert “Mutt” Lange. But apparently, the sonic perfection he strives for in the studio is something she won’t do without onstage, as most of the music sounded as if someone in the production crew cued up the original masters or a slightly tweaked “road mix” before the start of each song. (Thus Lange’s presence was felt not only in spirit but in the background vocals, as he and Twain perform them all on record.)

Twain can and does, in fact, sing live, quite well, and appeared to waver a bit vocally only on the first song of her encore, “You’re Still the One,” whether from monitor problems (she’s seemingly the only one onstage with the right to complain about that) or the end of a long set after admittedly suffering from a cold that night.

And one song, “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You),” was restarted after Twain lost track of a lyrical line, but considering that a false start and second attempt at a song in front of a studio aud in her most recent network airing was left in, one starts to wonder if even the appearance of a mistake is a bit of calculated misdirection.

If only Twain chose to include more moments like the “unplugged” version of “The Woman in Me (Needs the Man in You)” that she sang alongside a band member with just a classical guitar out in an upper-middle section of the arena. The backing vocals still sounded canned, and only those fans in the immediate vicinity might have been able to discern if the guitarist was indeed playing, but at least most of the artifice had been stripped away to showcase the sincere and genuine talent underneath.

Shania Twain

Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim; 16,000 capacity; $80 top

Production

Presented by Nederlander. Reviewed Dec. 16, 2003.

Cast

Band: Brent Barcus, J.D. Blair, Roddy Chiong, Cory Churko, Andy Cichon, Allison Cornell, Hardy Hemphill, Marc Muller, Randall Waller.
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