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Shania Twain's Rock This Country Tour Brings Her Timeless Talent to MSG


Billboard
By Kenneth Partridge
July 1, 2015


Given all that’s changed over the last 10 years, both in her personal life and the corner of the pop universe she helped design, Shania Twain could’ve put together a very different farewell tour.

It’s called Rock This Country, her triumphant return to touring after 11 years away, and yet on Tuesday night, as the 49-year-old singer and songwriter once crowned the Queen of Country Pop took the stage at Madison Square Garden, it never felt like forced reclamation of the throne.

Sure, the concert began with Twain rising up from under the floor on a pedestal that shot 50 feet into the air. But once she came back to earth and started strutting and air-guitaring through “Rock This Country!” in a fringed black jacket and matching thigh-high boots, Shania was as playful and disarming a diva as she’s ever been.

Maybe she’s not worried about Taylor Swift or Kacey Musgraves or where she fits into a country landscape filled with bros and bad girls and talk of “tomatoes.” And for good reason: If and when Twain releases her long-awaited fifth album, it won’t feature any Kendrick Lamar guest verses, and it won’t be some anti-Nashville bid for rootsy credibility. It’ll be the same Shania that came through at the Garden -- one that never goes out of style.

Twain followed “Rock This Country!” with the fiddles ‘n’ fireworks of “Honey, I’m Home” -- in many ways a quintessential Shania jam. It goes from stomping Def Leppard verses (signposts of ex-husband and producer Mutt Lange) to more classically minded country. And by playfully flipping traditional gender roles, the lyrics reveal a flirty everyday feminism that is her trademark.

A couple of tunes later, on the honky-tonk-ska rave-up “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” Twain returned to another of her common songwriting themes: not suffering fools. The song has arguably taken on added significance following her divorce from Lange -- who reportedly had an affair with her best friend -- but here’s another thing Rock This Country isn’t: a “Coming Out of the Dark”-style celebration of overcoming adversity.

During the show, Twain made only passing reference to her divorce (she’s since remarried) and the vocal problems that kept her sidelined throughout the late ‘00s after she’d gone pop (on her terms) with 2002’s mega-selling chart-topper Up! One place she alluded to her struggles was just before “Up!” -- a tune she sang while circling the arena on a saddle affixed to a crane. It was splashy and a little hokey, also Shania hallmarks, and yet the flying saddle wasn’t quite the motorcycle she swooped down on night after night during the two-year Las Vegas residency that began her comeback in 2012.

There were a couple of other Vegas-style moments, like when the onstage video screen flashed clouds and moons as she sang her monster ballad “You’re Still the One,” which began as an a cappella showcase for her renewed vocal powers and went on to involve the entire audience. And then there were the costume changes -- each an opportunity for Twain to put oon another long jacket or cloak that would inevitably be discarded in that tastefully sexy way she’s always favored. 

“Still the One” concluded a mini acoustic set that also featured “Today Is Your Day,” the inspirational comeback single Twain released in 2011. It wasn’t her strongest moment -- the background vocals verged on overpowering -- but when Twain introduced the song by calling music her “best friend,” it felt like the most genuine bit of stage banter from a show filled with the usual talk about how she came to party and have the best night ever.

“Man, I Feel Like a Woman!” -- an anthem for folks of all ages, genders, sexual preferences, races, whatever -- served as the natural encore finale, the only tune fit to follow arena-rocking set closers “That Don’t Impress Me Much!” and “If You’re Not In It For Love (I’m Outta Here).”

In her black-and-silver dominatrix/superhero outfit, Twain was, indeed, a super woman, leaping tall cultural discussion points (how a middle-aged woman is allowed to dress, what feminism looks and sounds like, at what point is a country-pop artist no longer be considered country) in a single bound. And she did so in tall boots only she’s fit to wear. 

Rock This Country MSG Set List

“Rock This Country!”
“Honey, I'm Home”
“You Win My Love”
“Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?”
“I Ain't No Quitter”
“Love Gets Me Every Time
“Don't Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)”
“Any Man of Mine”
“Ka-Ching!”
“I'm Gonna Getcha Good!”
“Come on Over”
“Party For Two” (with Gavin DeGraw)
“Up!”
“Today Is Your Day”
“No One Needs to Know”
You're Still the One”
“From This Moment On”
“That Don't Impress Me Much”
“(If You're Not in It for Love) I'm Outta Here!”

Encore:

“Man! I Feel Like a Woman!"

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