Let’s get this out of the way first: Yes, Shania Twain trotted out all of her big hits at her Rock This Country Tour stop at Target Center on Tuesday. Yes, the order was somewhat predictable, and so was the stage show. But who actually cares? No one. Shania has been gone for far too long – she hasn’t been in Minneapolis for 14 years, and we missed her. That’s why the first sold-out Twin Cities date on her so-called "final" tour quickly added another date in September.
Shania has been around a long, long time and her place in country music history will never be forgotten. Though we’d seen glimpses of what would be come “pop country” in the ‘80s with Kenny Rogers and company, it was Shania who brought the concept where it is today. Without Shania, there would never have been a Taylor Swift. Yep, I said it. In the ‘90s, you heard Shania’s songs everywhere, from country channels to Top 40 radio and MTV. You heard “From this Moment On” at weddings. You heard “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” on TV. She was inescapable, and she took her talent, gorgeous face, and charm and made herself an icon.
It was the icon who was out to play at Tuesday's sold-out show, though her trademark chestnut mane has been dyed blond (that was a shock!). She’s a month shy of her 50th birthday, but she doesn’t care; she’s wearing thigh-high boots and Britney-worthy bustiers. Shania looks incredible, and she knows it. A few years ago, she went through a messy divorce with producer ex Mutt Lange, lost her voice, and dealt with some serious stage fright, but in true Shania fashion she bounced back. After all, the girl formerly known as Eileen chose the name “Shania” because it means “I’m on my way.”
Shania came out dripping in fringe, wearing a leather jacket that was part Stevie Nicks, part Def Leppard. Her stage show is a mix of flashy pyrotechnics, cheesy video interludes, and a whole lot of red, black, and white. What do those colors represent, Shania? Maybe it’s the darkness of her heartbreak and the red and white of the eventual triumph, the passion of her eventual marriage to that hot dude her cheating ex-best friend was married to. She only wears those colors, too, whether it’s the sequined cape she wore while belting out “From This Moment On” to the white sequined men’s shirt worn during “Up!,” where she flies through the crowd on a red saddle. Sure, it’s all flash, but Shania is fresh off a Vegas residency. I was actually disappointed there wasn’t a horse onstage. The best thing about Shania is that she, like Hooters, is delightfully tacky, yet unrefined. Her taste for leopard print, duster coats, and neon accents will never get old.
Though homegirl lost her voice and was afraid she’d never sing again, you’d really never know it from her stage show. She’s said she needs to warm up much earlier and longer than she used to, and her show did feel short, but that voice is remarkably strong and supple, albeit a little bit lower in timbre. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that she still holds her own through various key changes from ballads like “You’re Still the One” to her big honkytonk hits like “Any Man of Mine.” The crowd goes bonkers for her; Shania is beloved by everyone from suburban moms to three-year-old boys. When she sat alone with her guitar to do “You’re Still the One,” I swear the room stopped dead for a moment before eagerly singing along. We were there for Shania during her struggles, and we’ll be there for her when the tour ends and she says goodbye. I cried.
Shania may do the same ‘ol, same ‘ol songs, but why shouldn’t she? Her hits are still so insanely good that we’d be content hearing them forever – and we will. Everyone wants to hear Shania on the jukebox.
Critic's bias: “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” is my go-to karaoke song. I learned everything I know about singing from Shania; I studied her mannerisms.
Notes on the opener: It’s Gavin DeGraw. Remember him? He comes out to do “Party for Two” with Shania, which she originally did with both Mark McGrath (pop album) and Billy Currington (country album).
Random notebook dump: Shania in her leather jacket looks like a cross between Aunt Becky from Full House and Stevie Nicks.
The crowd: Moms, daughters, a whole lot of drunk bitties in boho outfits — when did that become country?
Overheard in the crowd: "Is there still wine?”