Shania Twain isn’t in the midst of a comeback in the career sense; releasing just three albums in the last 20 years doesn’t really get an all-time best-selling pop star to the saturation point where her public image falls off. But she’s spent more than half of that time rebounding from personal turmoil — having her voice ravaged by Lyme disease and divorcing her ultimate collaborator and husband, mega-producer “Mutt” Lange, following his extramarital affair.
Her purely professional onstage revue, which recently held down a Las Vegas residency, would never tell you any of this, though her song choices from 2017’s Now made clear the album is her darkest, despite the cheerful insistence of its first single (and her set opener), “Life’s About to Get Good.” And she did address the long road back to normalcy briefly from the stage, referring to her ups and downs, particularly the “downs,” addressed on her new album as therapeutic. But despite the charms of “Poor Me” (which she flips into “pour me another”) and the Stevie Nicks pastiche, “Who’s Gonna Be Your Girl,” the real catharsis at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday was seeing her fly.
This expensive extravaganza, like only a few pop deities can afford these days, culminates with musicians on moving, miniature, wire-suspended stages: a drummer ascending to the ceiling for “(If You’re Not in It for Love) I’m Outta Here!”l the highest-altitude accordionist ever witnessed on the zydeco-tinged “Come on Over.” And Twain herself rode a zip line over the audience for a sequence where the maudlin, soundtrack-only “Soldier” turned into her biggest hit, “You’re Still the One,” performed by the singer in zero gravity, acoustic guitar in hand, over the very center of the arena as cellphones lit up the entire bowl of a venue. Walking on air was the country superstar’s specialty last night, and her voice sounded tip-top, too. “You guys are so cute from down here!” she gushed to the faithful.
The corn of Vegas still loomed over some sections that reminded us Twain isn’t as plugged into 2018 as, say, Beyoncé. A random tribute to her own early videos (nearly all of which had her riding a horse or frolicking on a beach) was strange, and a lip-service montage to the troops felt out of touch for a Canadian who hinted (and quickly walked back) that she doesn’t necessarily hate Trump’s populism. And she declined to play Now’s best songs — the thunderous “Roll Me on the River” would’ve slayed, or the punchy “Home Now.”
But she’s still a rock star, entering through the crowd to the strains of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” then thrashing out quite a bit on perfected power-pop-with-fiddle hybrids like Come on Over’s classic, “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You),” which was matched with Riverdance-esque choreography. She pulled up a couple of planted-seeming fans for selfies. In one spectacular sequence, she reminded us of her honky-tonk roots, from “Let’s Kiss and Make Up” to the barn-burning “Any Man of Mine.” And while the low point proved that “From This Moment On” remains unlistenable even with the benefit of shiny outfits and laser lights, the encore reinforced that her “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the deathless, triumphant “Man!! I Feel Like a Woman,” and that it’s bashed out even better when the drummer is more than 50 feet above the stage.