Marketing and the fiddles and steel guitar in her backing band notwithstanding, Shania Twain has so little to do with “country,” she makes Garth Brooks look and sound like Porter Wagoner. Still, who’s to argue over labels, with the most recent two of the Canadian’s three albums certified 10 million sellers? Certainly not the near-capacity Thursday night Hollywood Bowl audience.
Recording for Mercury Nashville Records (now part of the Universal Music Group behemoth), Twain’s music echoes a broad background in pop styles and her presentation reflects, at least in part, the influences of her husband, seasoned rock — and now Twain — producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange and manager Jon Landau: Twain’s stage set and overall presentation wouldn’t surprise anybody who’s seen a high-level arena-rock act since the early ’80s: smoke, flash pots and Vari-Lites all in place on a nice, clean stage, video screens to either side, and the band outfitted in costumes more likely to be found on Bryan Adams or Def Leppard than, even, Reba McEntire.
The songs, too, are more “rock” than “country,” whatever either means these days. Such titles as “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under,” “Honey, I’m Home” and “Black Eyes, Blue Tears” (dealing with spousal abuse) clearly resonate with her substantially female audience, and Twain and her powerfully electric band are nothing if not rousing. Much of the music is at a slightly above medium tempo, with the ballads “You’re Still the One” and, especially, the witty acoustic shuffle “No One Needs to Know” welcome respites. Eight singers from Woodland Hills’ El Camino Real High School and four percussionists identified as “The Wilson High School Band” appeared to add flavor to “God Bless the Child” (not the Billie Holiday song) and “If You’re Not in It for Love, Get Outta Here,” respectively.
The musical presentation of the show is so slick as to appear almost mechanical, so every once in a while Twain broke the momentum by chatting with members of the audience.
Leahy is a nine-member family band from Ontario, Canada, of Irish descent and specializing in Celtic-influenced music; its records are released Stateside on the Virgin sub Narada, and it has been featured on a PBS special.
Reduced to eight for this stop with sister Julie evidently at home, writing, the siblings (aged 19 to early 30s) sing; play keyboards, bass, guitar and a whole lot of fiddles; stepdance; and occasionally sing. The group’s music is certainly more traditional than the present-day Corrs, though there are occasional surprises such as a jazzy piano solo from Marie (who later on played fiddle upside-down, dancing, and with the bow between her legs at various spots during her featured number, and she’s not even the principal fiddler). It’s a pretty spectacular sight and sound, and Twain (who invited them to join her for one song) is to be commended for bringing them along.