|Shania Twain - Up! (Live In Chicago)|
|Written by Dan Macintosh|
|Tuesday, 18 November 2003|
Shania Twain is easy on the eyes and may not be too hard on the ears, but she sure can be mighty numbing on the brain cells at times. Dressed in a yellow top that looks like something a bicycle racer might wear during a Tour De France competition, with her bellybutton exposed above tight black pants that connect to the laced-up yellow boots on her feet, she comes off like a busy-bee aerobics instructor/cheerleader who is taking this crowd through 22 hits and album tracks, mostly from her “Up!” album. And although she’s tirelessly up and positive throughout – justifying the title of her recent album -- she won’t soon be confused with any of the world’s great artistic communicators.
More often than not, Twain’s songs read like summarized cover stories from Time and Newsweek. With “She’s Not Just A Pretty Face,” for example, Twain presents an aural pictorial of all the tough jobs modern women fulfill. And for this live presentation; Jumbotron screens illustrate her lyrics with predictable images of hardworking women in action. A few songs later, when rampant materialism is criticized with “Ka-Ching!,” DVD viewers may just want to conjure up their own photographic accompaniments for this one, since Twain’s crew didn’t prepare any money-grubbing images of their own. Suggested visual aids might include flipping credit cards, rushing mall-shoppers and enticing greenbacks raining down from the skies. So what do these two simplistic examples of “social commentary” tell us? Well, women from all walks of life are worthwhile contributors to society, and the love of money is the root of all evil. No duh! Who among us doesn’t already know that? These aren’t songs; they’re three-minute public service announcements for remedial social education. In other words, they’re redundant and unnecessary.
Critical thinkers may be bored to tears with Twain’s show, but her fans (estimated at over 50,000 for this particular show) don’t seem to have a problem with any of this elementary stuff. The cameras spend a great deal of time picking out young girls in the audience who are mouthing each and every inane Twain word. At one point, Twain brings up three young sisters to sing “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!” along with her, even though this semi-mature song speaks about the singer’s distaste for one-night stands -- not exactly Nickelodeon-ready material, if you ask me. Then, before Twain sings “When You Kiss Me,” she first invites a shorts-wearing young man to the stage. After she hands the microphone over to this obviously nervous concert attendee, she calls his fiancée to join him so that he may propose to her. The girl says yes, of course, and this newly engaged couple remains on stage to slow dance behind Twain. At least during The Jerry Springer Show, there was a staged fight at the end of each program. But no go here; just all smiles. Twain’s audience is stocked to the gills with girls – especially young girls – and one hardly sees any cowboy hats at all in the crowd. That’s because Twain is a country artist in name and radio airplay only, and not due to her music’s sound. If this is real country, pardner, I’ll eat my Stetson.
One of Twain’s most popular “country” songs is called “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under,” but the wearer of these boots must be an urban cowboy of some sort. She may carry three fiddlers in her band, but they merely rock the jukebox – as Alan Jackson might say – instead of making these traditional country instruments cry in the beer. Besides, there’s more to country music than mere cowboy boots, my friends. Cheating, for instance, is just as big with country aficionados as it is with the aforementioned Jerry Springer fanatics. But Twain remains a loudly vocal spokesperson for fidelity throughout this show. Song titles like “(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here!” and “Thank You Baby! (For Makin’ Someday Come So Soon)” just about say all you need to know about her feelings. Also, the so-called battle of the sexes is only referred to jokingly, if at all, within Twain’s concert repertoire. She opens her show with “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” and later smirks, “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You).” Somehow, love is as simple and unthreatening as the kiss at the end of a romantic sitcom episode. Who left the boots out? Who? Who?
For the most part, Twain allows her thin music to stand on its own merit here. She sometimes punctuates her songs with fountains of fireworks from the sides of the stage, and laser-like lights consistently shoot back and forth, but this is mostly just Twain and her band alone. Wisely, however, she’s avoided the sci-fi outfits she donned with one of her recent music videos. And except for her drummer’s ski-glasses, her band is dressed fairly casually here.
Although this concert -- originally filmed on July 27 in Chicago’s Grant Park -- marked Twain’s first show after a two-year-plus break from touring, she doesn’t appear rusty at all. This performance was broadcast on NBC on August 19th, and the DVD edition includes six performances not originally shown on TV. Sure, there are no annoying television commercials to fuss with when playing this disc, but if you caught this on the tube last summer, it’s hard to justify laying down hard-earned bucks for the hard copy.
There aren’t a whole lot of extras to choose from on this DVD. The viewer can select specific songs to view/hear, and also browse through Twain’s discography, but that’s about it. A little backstage perspective might have made it more fun, and an interview with Twain would have greatly helped. Was she nervous about her long layover between concerts? Was there anything that makes Chicago particularly special for her? None of this is explained nor examined, but it should have at least been explored.
It’s difficult to shake the nagging feeling that when REM wrote its hit “Shiny Happy People,” they must have had perky and perpetual smilers like Shania Twain in mind. Watching this DVD is akin to staying awake while the Miss America Pageant is being televised. During such beauty contests, contestants can pontificate about wanting to see war and hunger eradicated, all with sparkling gleams in their eyes. Similarly, Twain sings her weekly news magazine Cliff Notes ditties just like a ditzy singing spokesmodel. She may be Up! Up! Up!, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all of us can be down, down, down with it. So die, you shiny happy people, die!