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How's Twain? Oh, just fine

By Joan Anderman, Globe Correspondent, 06/15/99

Shania Twain makes her money the old-fashioned way: she earns it. Her job description, however, is decidedly new-fangled- the product of a pop culture where the sum of an entertainer's mediocre parts often far exceeds her intrinsic talent.

Twain has cobbled a brilliant career from a pleasant voice, perky country-pop tunes, a seasoned producer-husband (Mutt Lange) armed with an arsenal of watered-down heavy metal riffs, and a hot body.
That recipe has won her the distinction of being the first female to release back-to-back CDs that have sold over 11 million copies each. Such a level of success rarely happens to plain old really talented artists.
It happens, more often than not, to entertainers who are world-class masters at least offending the most amount of people.

That said, Twain put on a fine show for a sold-out Fleet Center. She looked fine in her black vinyl pants. Not to belabor the point, but in this market, that particular skill can't be underrated. Platform sneakers and a cheerleader ponytail of hair extensions added a provocative Aerobics Barbie effect. Twain also sounded fine
- no better, no worse -holding down the melodic fort while her nine-piece band laid down vast swaths of technique. Beauty evidently likes good company, because Twain's musical posse was a stellar lineup of male types: Rocker, Glam, Swarthy, Urban Funky, Muscle Man. This could hardly be a fashion accident, and yet they all played just - fine.

All this is to say that the Shania Twain concert was a pleasing package, as easy on the eyes as it was easy on the ears. Upbeat country pop tunes alternated with sweet power ballads, all sparkly clean and buffed to a glow with shimmering comfort harmonies. (Those guys, by the way, can sing, too!) Twain came out of the gate with the brassy, sassy ''Man, I Feel Like A Woman,'' introducing the evening's main performance features: fetching yelps and greeting audience members. The country genre is well-known for its gracious appreciation of fans, but in Twain's case fan appreciation seemed to substitute for actually performing. Major passages of songs were sung while kneeling and shaking hands, collecting stuffed animals, and accepting bouquets. It became a bit like the Shania Ride at a theme park: countless audience members were ushered onstage to sing, hug, and take a Polaroid picture with Shania. One memorable attendee spent his proverbial 15 minutes of fame flexing his biceps and yelling ''South Boston!'' into Twain's microphone.

Another high point was Twain's Courtney Love Moment, when she ragged -albeit more politely than Love - on the people who were sitting down. And she surprised us with guest appearances from the Wayland High School Choir, radiant in lavender robes, which sang on ''God Bless The Child,'' and the Wayland High School Band drummers, who supplied the rapid-fire fills on ''If You're Not In It For Love, I'm Outta Here.''

Some songs stood out during the 90-minute set, as well. Twain performed the impossibly catchy ''You're Still The One'' cross-legged on a rotating stool, accompanying herself quite nicely on 12-string guitar. And she started to loosen up vocally, hitting some soulful high notes and nimble licks on ''Come On Over,'' the title track of her latest album. ''That Don't Impress Me Much,'' Twain's Euro-dance number, was a bona-fide head-bopper. And when she finally got around to putting out some serious vocal juice on the Big Ballad, ''From This Moment On'' (recostumed in a sheer black coat, black pants, and a striped crop-top), one had to wonder if there wasn't more to Twain than the starmaker machinery allows. 

Twain's fellow Canadians Leahy, an Irish music and dance troupe composed of nine siblings, opened the show (they also step-danced on one of Twain's numbers) They played buoyant Irish-pop with a New Age feel, creating an effect along the lines of a Celtic John Tesh.

This story ran on page D1 of the Boston Globe on 06/15/99.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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