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Shania Twain review, O2 Arena: loads of razzle-dazzle, but how much was actually live?


The Telegraph - UK
By Neil McCormick
October 3, 2018


Shania Twain was queen of country pop, a global superstar, one of the top selling female artists of all time when she was forced to retire in 2004 due to vocal problems. She has made a triumphant return this year with a dazzling, spectacular and ridiculously entertaining show. Yet swathing her vocals in Autotune effects and pre-recorded backing track does not suggest her voice problems are over. Last night at Londonís O2, Twain put on an utterly amazing live show. The only question was how much was really live?

To be fair, I doubt any fan would come away feeling short changed, or grumbling that Twain hadnít made an effort. The staging was state of the razzle dazzle art, all eye-popping LED imagery and constantly shifting mobile platforms, populated by a band of lithe, cheery, dancing musicians ascending and descending in surprising configurations, suddenly appearing out of the floor and vanishing back into the set with their guitars, fiddles and drums.

Twain was the sharp centre of the action, looking fantastic at 53 in a series of bold yet elegant costumes that crossed vampish cowgirl and haute couture. She chatted amiably in an amused croaky voice (ďPeople are my favourite things in life! I love chatting!Ē) and belted out her big hits with energetic gusto. And even if the croak suspiciously vanished in a digitally tuned double-tracked flux whenever she cued a song, you really canít take anything away from the songs themselves.

Twain rose to fame writing power-packed hits that crossed country musical tropes with sleek pop rock, and she performed everything her fans could have wanted to hear. Popping up on a platform in the middle of the arena, fake strumming an acoustic guitar, she led 20,000 people in a glorious singalong of Still the One - which is still one of the greatest love songs ever written.

That Donít Impress Me Much and Man! I Feel Like A Woman! retain their irrepressibly joyous momentum. A fistful of fine new songs from last yearís chart topping comeback album, Now, were cheerfully received. It was an evening of fun musical entertainment, choreographed to perfection and staged more like a Las Vegas revue or Broadway show than a rock concert. And it was the most fake live gig I have seen since Britney Spears last brought her all-dancing, all-miming production to town.

Twainís energetic sextet was more like a cheerleading troupe than a band of top session musicians. A good rule of thumb is that if there are fewer musicians on stage than instruments coming out of the speakers, then they are playing to track. There was no bass guitar, no piano or keyboard player and the otherwise impressive drummer spent at least half of the show with her mobile kit being moved around by stage hands from one part of the stage to another. The country fiddlers were fantastic but what they were effectively doing was adding a patina of virtuosity. I am not even suggesting that Twain wasnít singing live, just that the live element of her vocal was enveloped in the protective cotton wool of pre-recordings and boosted with digital effects to ensure every note was pristine.