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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Shania Twain demonstrates aerobics with live vocals

Staples Center, Los Angeles, June 23, 2004

By Dan MacIntosh

LOS ANGELES - Do you remember playing with kaleidoscopes as a kid? Whenever you turned these neat little contraptions, the colors moved in and out and created endless designs. Well, from the upper deck looking down at Shania Twain's stage-in-the-round, this concert closely resembled gazing through the lens of a kaleidoscope.

As Twain circled around the stage, rapidly signing autographs every few feet or so, fans swarmed in before her arrival, then receded after her departure. And sadly, this bit of spontaneous human art was far more fascinating than the music itself.

Another appropriate analogy for what Twain does is that of an aerobics demonstrator - albeit, one with live vocals. This singer rarely stands still, and must certainly have an accelerated heart rate while performing.

The ever-peppy songs themselves, such as "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!" and "In My Car (I'll Be The Driver"), all blend together, just like any endless upbeat mix tape down at the health club. Her fans, like exercisers on a mission, all dance and sing along with her generic paint-by-numbers lyrics, and leave the auditorium proud to have worked up a sweat. Let's get physical, they seemed to be saying with their actions, but let's leave our hearts and brains at the venue entrance.

The closest Twain got to social commentary - and this was no nearer than a country mile - was with the shallow female empowerment she expressed through "She's Just Not a Pretty Face," where photos of women doing almost every profession imaginable (except, of course, for that oldest one) were shown on the big screens.

Twain's decision to have a young woman propose to her husband-to-be before serenading them both with "You're Still the One," might have been special, had she not also done the very same thing during her recent DVD, "Up!: Live in Chicago." The law of diminishing returns kicks in quickly here, especially if marriage proposals are just another regular part of her live show.

It's hard to figure out why Shania Twain is still so popular among country music fans. This audience was packed with cowboy hat wearing attendees, but Twain's sound is something along the lines of the mechanically danceable ABBA, only with a trio of fiddlers added for color. She may be Shania Twain, but she's by no means Shania Twang.

Twain's fellow Canadians, Emerson Drive, opened this show. The band's set was distinguished by plenty of fiddle and acoustic - rather than electric - lead guitar. Song highlights included the stomping "Fishin' in the Dark" from the new "What If?" release, and covers of U2's "Where The Streets Have No Name" and Charlie Daniels' "Devil Went Down To Georgia" (sans the cussing).