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Concert Review: Shania Twain is the Glam Queen-Next-Door at Staples Center Stop

On the penutlimate night of her U.S. tour, Twain touched on the more personal aspects of her "Now" album, but let the power-pop-country of the go-go '90s rule the show.

Variety
By Chris Willman
August 5, 2018


“The best thing about being a woman is the prerogative to have a little fun,” Shania Twain famously sang in the late ‘90s. That prerogative also happens to be the best thing about being an unashamed appreciator of commercial genre-straddling in its highest form, as presented by Twain Friday night at Los Angeles’ Staples Center. It was a merry throwback to a now wistfully recalled time when women briefly ruled the country earth, and when pop-country wasn’t a dirty hybrid word — or at least didn’t deserve to be, yet.

The Staples show represented the penultimate date of a 46-city North American tour, to be followed by trips to Europe in September and October and some final shows in Australia and New Zealand in December. One does hesitate to use the word “final” with Twain, who billed her 2015 trek as her swan song on the road, before reneging on that threat when she decided to follow last year’s comeback album, “Now,” with another tour. {“I had more stamina than I thought,” she explained at the time, although maybe everyone needs to follow the Eagles’ tongue-in-cheek lead and just start numbering their farewell tours.) The show still feels in some ways like a continuation of the showmanship Twain was up to at Caesars Palace in 2012 to 2014, albeit without the live stallions. You can take the girl out of the Las Vegas residency, etc.

The prerogative to have a lot of costume changes is a big part of the “Now” tour, and some of them involve quite lengthy interludes — like the longest drum solo this side of the ‘70s, or a retrospective of music video clips from her greatest VH1 hits (“We’ll reminisce!” she says, before retreating under the stage) — the reasons for which become apparent when she reappears. The final change had Twain reemerging in a long gown atop a platform that made it appear as if her legs were six feet long, before layers disappeared over subsequent numbers and she was left in a bodysuit that seemed like it could have been painted on.

This would be an enjoyable spectacle for wardrobe aficionados if the songs weren’t great, but there is the matter of Twain still having the greatest and most gleeful bubblegum catalog of the late ‘90s and early 2000s to fill out the bulk of a 110-minute set. The show was predictably heavy on the effervescence of that exclamation point-filled vintage oeuvre and lighter on the more dramatic and personal moments feeling her post-divorce return to record-making “Now,” though she did get to six numbers from the latest album.

The title track of 2002’s “Up!” — sung from atop a very elevated platform, naturally — was followed by her admonition that “what goes up must come down,” leading to the one deliberate bummer of the night, the recent “Poor Me.” The other “Now” choices tended toward the more inspirational, but, of course, nothing could ever be more inspiring — in her set, or in this life — than “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!,” a show-closer that leaves everyone feeling like a gazillion bucks, if not a gal.

Everyone must fly now on tour — it’s a rule! — and Twain took to the air for “Soldier” by sitting on an open guitar case that was borne aloft across the arena, while she played or mimed playing an acoustic. The rest of her show was not going to rival the current tour of her acolyte, Taylor Swift, for sheer vastness and variance of production design, but there were still set-pieces aplenty. In “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!,” her dancers’ suits lit up in the dark, like electric horsemen, or extras from “Tron.” In “More Fun,” which she said would be “the sexiest song of the night… my version of ‘Magic Mike’,” the four male dancers unbuttoned their shirts and interacted with chairs for a beefcake interlude amid an otherwise studiously wholesome night; Twain sang from a respectful distance atop a piano before ever-so-quickly joining in the PG-13 antics.

Those same dancers thumbed their belt loops for some line-dancing during a mid-show succession of three mega-hits: “Any Man of Mine,” “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?,” and “Honey, I’m Home.” The female dancers took to Daisy Dukes and the two violinists became two fiddlers for the duration of this throwback stretch. You could say this cornpone vision almost looked like a patronizing version of country from people who have never actually been a part of country, reinforcing the idea that Twain was more of a tourist in the genre than a mainstay who wants to be taken seriously. Then again, anyone who has rhymed “stress” and “PMS” in a country hit has probably earned the right to make the pure country stretch of her show as campy as she wants to.

Plenty of personable moments during the show offered pause to consider what Twain’s biggest influence on Swift may have been, and it’s not the mutual dilemmas they’ve faced over whether or not to “pick a lane” between pop and country. It’s there in the relatability and rapport that Swift surely picked up on, watching her idol. “Relatable” hasn’t always completely squared with the public’s image of Twain living in a castle in days past, but when she invites members of a bridal party on stage for some premarital advice, she’s less Princess Grace of Monaco than a chatty hausfrau-next-door who seems more delighted to meet audience members than they are to enter her spotlight. Twain’s real queenhood, as a woman who has survived as a superstar in a man’s world, with and without a crucial partner, is an unheralded feminism you don’t think much about, and aren’t really meant to, amid the giddy fun and glitzy folksiness.

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