Review: Shania Twain offers flash and polish at the Saddledome

Calgary Herald
By Eric Volmers
September 17, 2015


Shania Twain at the Saddledome

Attendance: 11,500

It’s hardly an original observation at this point in Shania Twain’s career.

But the Canadian performer — the queen of big-spectacle country and Vegas glitz — has a concert persona that perfectly matches the curious over-use of exclamation marks in her song titles.

Big. Silly. Loud. Kind of fun. But, let’s face it,  a touch tedious after awhile. Performing the first of a two-night stint at the Saddledome Thursday evening, Twain rose from under the stage to the generic-rock-but-kinda-country strains of  Rock This Country! (!) She kept rising, almost to a point where it seemed we were about to witness a Spinal Tap-worthy mishap. But the singer — who added some cool to her glitter by wearing a Rolling Stone shirt (albeit a glittery one) and shades — is far too controlled for anything like that to happen.

Thursday night’s concert hit all the notes we’ve come to expect of a Shania Twain concert, particularly since her lucrative and long-running stint in Vegas a few years back.

Of course, accusing Twain of flash-over-substance is like accusing Liberace of being flamboyant. It’s par for the course and certainly feeds into fan excitement, represented by Thursday night by a near-constant squeal of recognition for just about every song she trotted out.

With monstrously large set pieces, flashing pyrotechnics and a backdrop that alternated between a fearfully large Shania on closed-circuit and rather on-the-nose messaging (BOOTS! during a playful run through Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under? for instance). Twain had some perfunctory interaction with her large and polished back-up act and at one point was carted through the crowd in Cleopatra fashion.

Still, in a cute moment, Twain took a photograph with a little girl attending her first concert.

It was a sweet gesture and brought the often impersonal show down to earth. So did an acoustic run through Today is Your Day, which showcased Twain’s powerful vocals backed by warm harmonies. It was a concert highlight, as was stripped-down version of the salty No One Needs to Know and sing-along version of the melodic You’re Still the One.

As deadline neared, the backdrops became increasingly dazzling, hitting an epic, Tiger-filled climax for Twain’s defiant That Don’t Impress Me Much. It was a Vegas-worthy spectacle, overbearing and kind of strange.

Earnest singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw, who joined Twain on stage for a rollicking duet on Party For Two, obviously couldn’t match such flash. But, during a pleasing opening set, he cheerfully wore his influences on his sleeve. He hit a crowd-walking climax with a serviceable run through Billy Joel’s Big Shot and ended things with an appropriately cheesy take on Bryan Adams’ Heaven. The South Fallsburg, New York singer shares those artists’ eager-to-please enthusiasm. So he gets an A for effort, even if his own songs don’t always register as particularly memorable. He offered soft-edged soul, wafer-thin rock and a few piano-led ballads before hitting a peak with the galloping R&B of Best I Ever Had. DeGraw put sweat into his set, even if the sound occasionally suffered from opening-band thinness. There’s something endearing about an artist so clearly smitten with playing before a stadium crowd. Memorable? No. But this was not exactly a night for such things. “If you’re not here to party we are going to leave you in the dust,” he said at one point, not very convincingly.

Yes, it was a party. But presumably a very similar one will be thrown again tonight. And maybe again next year at around this time.

As Twain no doubt learned night after night in Vegas, there’s power in consistency. So why bother gambling?