I should have known it it all along. Most likely, Pam did. We went to see Shania Twain at Staples last night, and, frankly, I did not know what to expect. We had never seen her perform live before. Sure, we knew, and loved, her vintage music. We are not alone, as she probably is the biggest selling female country music artist of all time, though I suspect Taylor Swift would eclipse her if she stayed country. But all of that is moot. Recently, Shania has had personal tragedies that have kept her out of the limelight and possibly affected the quality of her voice.
These events definitely affected her music. In the 90s she was the queen of pop country, turning out one extremely pleasant song after another. Songs that were fun to listen to with light lyrics and catchy tunes. Songs that were so good that they even inspired guys to sing about feeling like a woman.
Recently, she released Now, her first album in years. We received a copy of it several months ago, as it came with the tickets to her show. The first time each of us listened to Now we were unimpressed. Gone was the sweet, high pitched voice. Gone were the catchy tunes and simplistic lyrics. Gone was the country, though there was never a ton of country in her anyway. Gone was the pop. In its place was a cathartic expression of life accompanied by a deeper, more mature voice.
After listening to Now several times in preparation for the show, we realized that Now also had substance. It grew on us, as we kept listening to it. We just weren’t sure how it would translate to a live show, and how it would coexist with her earlier works. We also were concerned that her new, lower voice would not work when she sang her older material. It turned out we had nothing to worry about.
Her show was spectacular, in all senses of the word. Maybe, just maybe, the 100+ shows she did in Las Vegas several years ago had something to do with that, as this was a production with a capital P. Every aspect of it was superb. From the staging to the sound and the visuals, from the backup singers to the dancers and the band, everything was perfect. The mix was remarkable, enabling all vocals and instruments to be heard clearly and distinctly, not something we usually experience. Her entrance was fitting of Rocky Balboa or Apollo Creed. It was a focused assault on our senses, fueled by drummer Elijah Wood’s rhythmic, spiritual beating on drums located at the back of the arena, providing all the pulse pounding accompaniment Shania needed for her long walk through the audience before getting to the stage.
As she sang the opening bars of her first song, Life’s About to Get Good, we had a feeling we were in for a treat. And by the time she got through Come on Over and Up!, a couple of songs later, we knew it. So did everyone else in Staples.
Pam loves productions like this. For her, last night was a party, an exuberant expression of art and music. I am usually a bit less enthusiastic about productions like this. Generally, I like stripped down, acoustic performances. Generally, I like the absence of costume changes. Generally, I avoid shows with dancers, as they usually take away from the music. Not last night. Shania’s show featured everything I profess to disdain, including umpteen costume changes. I liked, no loved, it, despite, and maybe because of, its production quality and the showmanship she possesses. And, yes, she can still sing.