Friendly warning - ouch!!
Posted on Tue, Dec. 16, 2003
Shania Twain fails to make sparks fly at S.J. concert
By Brad Kava
Singer Shania Twain donned a Sharks jersey in San Jose Sunday. (Joanne Hoyoung Lee -Mercury News)
During her show Sunday night at San Jose's HP Pavilion, Shania Twain ran around the circular stage countless times signing autographs -- even while she was singing.
She also had five fans come up at various times and sing with her -- all about as badly as people trying out for ``American Idol.''
And then -- amazingly! -- she even had one lucky fan, who donated a lot of money to charity, come up on the stage and have her picture taken with the star.
Twain, it seemed, did everything she could to please her audience. Everything, that is, except sing great songs with inspiration.
The first five songs, some of her biggest hits, made you feel like you were going to be in for a great night. But for the rest of the show's two hours, the muffled sound and middle-of-the-road vocals grew as tedious as a long drive down Interstate 5.
``We're pretty much ready to rock tonight, so get off your butts,'' she told the audience early on. But for all the cheerleading, this show never delivered enough energy to get people moving.
Not that she didn't pull out almost every theatrical trick.
The 38-year-old Canadian opened the theater-in-the-round show with ``Man! I Feel Like a Woman!'' and appeared to be behind a curtain in the middle of the stage. But then -- miraculously! -- she walked down an aisle from the audience. Yeah, Kenny G and a dozen others have pulled the same thing, but it works if you haven't seen many shows.
Then, wearing Mike Ricci's San Jose Sharks jersey (always a local crowd pleaser), black gym pants and a thick sparkly choker, she went into ``Up!'' from the exclamatory album of the same name.
Keeping the gym pants and shoes, she later changed into pink tank top; and then, for the grand finale, added a Barry Bonds Giants jersey.
On ``She's Just Not a Pretty Face,'' Twain invited a young fan to join her on stage, who -- surprisingly! -- was wearing the same outfit.
Fireworks fired constantly, even from violins, until they weren't surprising anymore. There was a long, long band introduction, during which each member jumped through a hole on the stage. It was far more entertaining for them, than for the audience.
She even invited a dozen drummers from Evergreen Valley High School to thump away on one song (but didn't give them autographs, they complained later).
Her nine-piece band was tight and a bit inspired. Several switched between electric guitars and fiddles. But in the giant arena, it was hard to hear anything but a wall of sound. Even the Dixie Chicks had trouble cutting through when they played arenas, but Twain, with her competent but undistinguished voice, faded into the woodwork covering the ice.
There was something cold about this performer, whose life is like a remarkable Horatio Alger story. She performed in bars from the time she was 11, having to play after alcohol was served at 1 a.m. After her parents died when she was 21, she worked hard in clubs to support her younger siblings before she could take off for the big time. When she finally hit, it was huge. She sold more than 50 million albums and moved to Switzerland (maybe Canada wasn't bland enough).
But Sunday night she was so ordinary, she made Celine Dion seem positively soulful.
She spent a lot of time alone on a raised platform on stage, in a charisma-free zone, not interacting with her band or the audience.
But when she wasn't standing there, she would try to build excitement by rounding the stage, stopping in front of clutches of fans and signing autographs for them.
That was about as exciting for those not getting autographs as watching the line at a bank teller's window.
Almost always, even if you don't like a performer's genre, anyone who can sell that many albums and sell out concert halls around the world, has something special to offer in concert.
But Twain is part of a rash of performers who succeed despite numbing blandness. Hip-hop maestro P. Diddy comes to mind; Garth Brooks is right there; so are the latest incarnations of Billy Joel and Elton John.
They have all the cutting edge of a butter knife, but they still attract flocks of fans, earn Grammys and sell millions of albums.
It's sort of like comparing a thick, juicy burger on a fresh, toasted bun to a greasy, thin piece of meat on a tasteless roll -- and realizing it's the latter that has sold billions.
Contact Brad Kava at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (408) 920-5040.