We were very, very intrigued prior to our opening night trip as media guests. We didn't know what to expect. Shania is a music video icon, but as a performer she personally admits she's no dancer and lacks a truly forceful charismatic punch when away from belting the hits. This show is a mixture of her attempt to create a comfortable return to the stage and part meet the theatrical excess you know and love on the Strip.
Problems we encountered include the room and the choice of presentation. It takes three songs before Shania talks directly to the audience. And, three songs before you finally get a chance to see a close-up of her face projected onto the enormous screen at the back of the stage. Omnipresent video cameras very rarely project close-ups of Shania singing. (If you look behind you at the rear control booth, you'll see the show is constantly filmed.) The telegenic star can seem a very, very long way away in this theater. And, the chasm can cause even serious fans to break the spell of watching their idol. We noticed it from the rear orchestra. It's a wasted opportunity. More big screen Shania would seriously help.
As promised, there is a horse on stage. Two of them. Surprise! And, a huge video set up. The requisite number of costume changes are shifts into iconic costumes. All the hits are there. You can count them off on your fingers, while you predict the order they'll appear. And, there is an interlude where she connects with fans, staged round a camp-fire set. Audience members are selected by Shania and brought up on stage. Allowing for it being a first night test-run, let's just say it slammed the show to a screeching halt and was decidedly awkward.
As further promised, Shania sings with her younger sister in this segment, but we never experience them singing a true harmony. We don't hear Carrie-Ann solo at all. A real shame as, last week, we heard Shania explain her publicity-shy sister's voice is eerily similar. We'd have liked to have heard that. Not random stalk-ery audience members butchering a song.
Despite the knowledge of vocal issues during her eight-year absence from the live stage, you are never close to hearing a bad note from this pure professional. You might notice a tentative reserve, or strain in certain sections. The stress on the word "wrong" during "That Don't Impress Me Much" felt a little pulled-back. Fans will recognize that note.
The band is naturally overly skillful to the point of being almost clinical. Could almost be a backing track. And, if ladies in the audience are looking for macho, dangerous cowboy-types among the stage dancers, you'll be disappointed. Concentrate on the star, rather than the other humans on stage and you'll be happy. Naturally, when the horses stride on, you'll switch your focus to them.
Attention to detail is obvious, even if they are not details that appealed to us. The confetti is even color coordinated to match color lighting cues. Super fancy confetti, too. None of that cheap nightclub paper. We didn't get to experience the medley of perfumes that apparently they pipe into the theater.
The video is one of the strangest problems. Clips of Shania in computer-generated worlds. We were confused. In one sequence, regular Shania encounters straight-haired, Gothic-clothed Shania in the Old West. Some sort of internal dilemma? Same thing happens in a video segment featuring the black horse and the white, almost unicorn, horse. A duality conflict? We weren't impressed by the video content, but thought the technical presentation was top notch.
Here's one of two really odd things we noticed. The other is our obnoxiously long rant below. If Shania looks out and spies a sea of seated and static fans, it's because the Coliseum staff made them sit down. No clapping or dancing out of your seat. It makes for a muted crowd. Now, at the end of the show, the finale encourages everyone to stand. It's a clever gimmick, used to great effect by Viva ELVIS. It creates an instant standing ovation. Ready or not. Earned or not. Watch out for it at other shows. We find it dishonest.
We repeat, if you are a fan, for the most part this is a show for you. Is that enough to sell out this theater for 120 nights over the next two years? We are a big, big fan of the cheapest seat at these concerts being $55 plus fees. Kudos. That's a great price. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill tickets at the Venetian will start at $103. Our advice is to grab the best tickets you can afford, closest to the stage. Closest to Shania. You'll be thankful and you've been waiting a long time for her to return. And, the opening surprise? It's too good to spoil. We didn't see it coming. Kudos, again.
We end with a rant. We mentioned the overly officious staffers that will make you sit down. Even if you spontaneously jump up for a moment. Well, their camera policy is far worse. Want to share the moment when you spent your money on a concert in Vegas with your favorite star. You can't. If you are carrying a camera, it will impounded. But, they don't search bags. You could smuggle in a small goat or even Kanye West waiting to jump up on stage. A camera? Nope.
But wait, there's more. And, this truly annoyed us. During moments when we weren't fully engaged by the stage show, we looked around and, on a few occasions, witnessed folks removed from their seat for snapping photos. A quiet word? Yes, we understand. Temporarily removing paying customers? Get over yourself, Caesars. We understand your issues of copyright and safety, but come on, it's Shania, not Stalin on stage.
During her execrable trip into the audience to meet folks, Shania even posed for photos! See our photo above, that picture of the Shania exhibit you'll find inside the entrance? Illegal! You can't get your own photo like that. No photo of her Grammy for the Shania fan. Our camera was confiscated. Boo-hoo us, right? Happened to be the same camera that photographed Shania last week. The irony was not wasted on us. It was on the tinpot tyrant who took it from us.
Here's the kicker. We could have shared a photo sequence of the show's costumier, Mark Bouwer, pointing out details on the actual legendary costumes he designed for Shania's videos. We were right there, by him, by the displays. A great moment. But, sorry, no photos of that one-off moment missed by all other media outlets. No story for you, Casears. Might have encouraged another ticket buyer. Not going to happen now.
It's Vegas. People like to take quick photos. But, Caesars staffers will be watching inside, so remember to turn off your flash and the LCD viewing screen at the back of your camera. And, for bootleggers wishing to record the audio, you'll need to EQ the audio afterwards. Add some treble to the mix. The acoustics are a touch bassy and muddy Shania's words on occasion. You might want to focus on that Caesars, not the horrors of potential twitter snaps.