Shania Twain brings Vegas show to Edmonton audience at Rexall Place
By Mike Ross
June 11, 2015
It was a song called Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under? that broke Shania Twain in 1995 – and what cruel irony that the song came true by the man who helped her create it.
Shania simply wouldn’t be where she is without ex-husband Robert John “Mutt” Lange, the producer famous for putting that distinctive “sheen” on Def Leppard songs and their ilk. No one had ever heard anything quite like Shania’s steroid-muscled brand of country music before – and it was a huge hit. But then Mutt cheated on her, just like in a country song, and they divorced, sending our Canadian sweetheart into a spiral of heartbreak and depression (and voice problems) that she only recently pulled out of. What a Mutt.
But she’s back! Before she goes away for good, apparently. Fresh from a two-year residency in Las Vegas, Twain brought her high gloss comeback-farewell tour to Rexall Place Thursday night for the first of two shows – her first appearance in Edmonton since 2004. The crowd gave this Canadian icon a huge response just for showing up.
So yeah, Shania’s done a lot of living since her Cinderella Story started 20 years ago - but if any of that depth of heartbreak and life experience was evident at this show, it must’ve been buried in the mounds of slick, campy production and one sugar-frosted, beefed-up, happy country-flavoured pop confection after another. If for her promised next album we’re expecting Swiftian wrath – as in Taylor Swift - with a collection of vindictive heartbreak songs, don’t bet on it. Shania knows what pays the bills. Yet while Shania’s material may lack the pain of her country music forebears, it sure is fun. From Any Man of Mine to the show-stopping encore Man! I Feel Like a Woman, these songs are diabolical in their radio-friendliness. They’re so radio-friendly they’ll follow you home. They actually sounded like an unholy fusion of Def Leppard and Reba McEntire: expertly-written catchy hooks, killer choruses and inevitable modulations to make every song not just a song, but an anthem.
Shania and her note-perfect band didn’t deviate from the script one bit. She had some fun bringing up a couple of girls from the audience to sing along with Don't Be Stupid (You Know I Love You), and had opening act Wes Mack up for a duet on Party for Two. That was it for special guests. If this was a travelling Vegas show, where were the dancers? Sorry, a video of hunky shirtless cowboys doesn’t cut it.
One of the precious few genuine moments came during the “unplugged” portion of the show – they always do – as she picked up an acoustic guitar for Today is Your Day, dedicated to “all of you,” while urging us to think of this particular song when we’re feeling down. Later on she also threatened to get real when she mentioned that “life sure takes us through some ups and downs.” But that was just the canned patter to introduce Up! (title track of her 2002 album), which she performed on a saddle – a saddle! - atop a crane that revolved around the arena, while “laser beams” played over the audience. A moment of pure country cheese.
That this would be a pop diva spectacular above all else was evident from the start, seeing the star – with blonde hair and sunglasses – emerge from a pit in the stage on a rising pedestal for Rock This Country. The theme would not deviate for the rest of the show. Consider the country rocked. You know what they say: you can’t take the Vegas out of the Country Girl, or something.
There are few things more campy than the spectacle of an up-and-coming country band playing around with cover songs to augment their sometimes lacklustre originals. The bigger the hit, the more embarrassing it can be – and in the case of opening act Wes Mack, making the leap from TV (Smallville, Heartland) to the big stage with middling success, he aimed high with Uptown Funk. You’d think they’d wait a respectable period of time until such a massive song drops off the hit parade, but no, and they did the whole thing, too – complete with dance moves and canned keyboards. This was, naturally, the highlight of a set otherwise laden with straight-ahead honest country rocking from the Tom Cochrane school, canned banjo notwithstanding. That has to stop, too.