Faith Hill goes the Shania route
The Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, May 1, 1999
LOS ANGELES - Just a few days before this concert, the local paper was speculating upon whether or not Faith Hill was on target to become the next Shania Twain. This was based upon her numerous nominations for the upcoming ACM Awards (a whopping six!) and the direction of her music - away from gentle country sounds and closer to aggressive pop.
After the lights went down on this cold LA night, out popped Hill, dressed in mirror ball silver speckled pants, a jet black top - with barred mid-riff - and hair in a ponytail; In other words, the very vision of the next Shania Twain, in the flesh.
And the music itself did nothing to dispel this newspaper writer's predictions either. Except for mid-show unplugged segment, which included covers of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" and Rod Stewart's "The First Cut is the Deepest," this night's repertoire was all high-powered pop music - from the hit "It Matters To Me," to the cover of Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me."
It was another one of Hill's "unplugged" moments that really pointed out her weaknesses as an artist. When she sang "Chain of Fools," the listener couldn't help but imagine how Aretha Franklin initially poured filled each and every line with her own unique phrasing. When Franklin sang it, you new beyond a shadow of doubt that it was the Queen of Soul talking. But with Hill, all you really hear is great singing, instead of a clearer insight into the artist. An air of anonymity seemed to run through much of Hill's 90-minute set.
If Hill is the next Twain, surely she's her clone, instead of her sister in the musical faith.
The diminutive Deana Carter, who preceded Hill, does not suffer from these same dire medical/musical speculations. "You know it's cold," she joked at one point "when your nose is running," before apologizing to the front row for these unexpected nasal emissions.
Whether she was singing songs she had written, or songs written for her, the audience believed every word to be nothing less than authorized biography. The girls right behind me reminisced right along wither her on "Strawberry Wine," then sang out with solidarity on her closer, "Did I Shave My Legs For This?"
Carter, whose band sometimes sounded like a female-led Southern rock band, and not a country combo, still carried herself with sweet backwoods charm. With only a brief 10-song set to work with, Carter smartly made the best of her every last minute of stage time.
The opener, The Warren Brothers, were cursed with a mere four-song set, but they quickly won the crowd's appreciation with their hits "Guilty" and "Better Man." The combination of enthusiastic playing, and harmonica and acoustic guitar colored songs left the audience wanting more.