Twain gives crowd moments of magic in First Niagara Center

The Buffalo News
By Tim O'Shei
October 3, 2015

The long-awaited moment came at 10:04 p.m. Shania Twain, dressed in a flowing black robe, fog cascading around her feet, framed by minty ice-colored lasers, sang her lyrics to “From This Moment On.”

The fans who filled every level of First Niagara Center Saturday night, fans who’d been waiting more than a decade for this moment, joined in.

There were other songs on Twain’s “Rock This Country” tour set that pumped more adrenaline. Songs like “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” which showcased the rocking side of Twain’s talented seven-piece band.

Songs like the finale, “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” that have been karaoke and car-radio classics for years.

But this was a concert about moments. Moments that even Twain, 50, never thought would come again.

It started with opener Gavin DeGraw, who faced a nearly full arena with humility. “I know most of you don’t know who I am,” he said a few songs into his 45-minute set. That was slightly surprising, considering DeGraw, 38, has been a radio mainstay for several years. But judging from the crowd’s polite but seated response to his first few songs (“Soldier,” “In Love with a Girl” and “Fire”), he was right.

They didn’t know him.

As he’s surely done on all his Shania tour stops, DeGraw spent the next half-hour changing that. He alternated between his piano and taking a microphone to the runway that bisected the front-of-house crowd and each flank of the stage. As he strutted around the stage in a gray fedora and dark pants and shirt, DeGraw amped up the audience with each song. His cover of Billy Joel’s “Big Shot” jolted anyone whose attention he was lacking, especially when he took the performance into the crowd. DeGraw worked his way through the floor section, then ascended the stairway to the top of the 100-level at what, in hockey terms, would be center ice.

With his four-man band playing continuously, DeGraw melded the Joel classic into his own hit, “I Don’t Want to Be,” which surely triggered the music memory of fans who thought they didn’t know DeGraw, then realized they did.

As DeGraw descended the stairway between sections 104 and 105, the fans so anxious for Twain were all his.

They were perfectly warmed up for her, too. When it was Twain time, the star rose to the stage on a tall platform wearing fringed top, sequined Rolling Stones logo shirt and red-tinged glasses.

The spectacles proved necessary for the spectacle when several shots of hot pyrotechnics fired from the stage.

The flash of the opening songs of Twain’s set outdid her initial performance. Twain seemed to struggle slightly at times during the opening two songs, “Rock this Country” and “Honey, I’m Home.”

Maybe it was her vocals. Maybe it was the sound. Whatever the case, it balanced out after that. Twain’s voice was powerful through “You Win My Love” and “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?”

She introduced “I Ain’t No Quitter,” a fun and slightly sassy song she’s never performed on tour before this, by pointing out the title fits her.

It does. Before the “Rock This Country” tour, Twain stayed off the road – and largely out of the public eye – for more than a decade. She spent that time caring for her now-teen son, battling vocal issues (she needs to warm up for 90 minutes before every show) reshaping her personal life. (She divorced and remarried.)

When Twain took the stage again two years ago for a Vegas residency and then for this tour, fans met a renewed, and changed, Shania.

“It’s like a reunion of sorts,” Twain told reporters on a May conference call previewing the tour.

At the time, Twain said this tour would be her goodbye to the stage. She wanted to concentrate on creating, not performing.

“I could just do songwriting, and I would be happy,” she said. “I would be fulfilled.”

Twain revised her plans in August, though, telling a Las Vegas journalist that she wasn’t ready to leave the stage. After the first leg of her tour ends in her native Canada at the end of this month, she’s planning to work on her next album then take her show overseas and eventually back to Vegas.

One of the most telling moments of the Buffalo show came when Twain spoke openly about stepping away to be a mom. Along with the positives, she admitted, “I lost a lot of my confidence while I was on that break.”

Twain spoke at length about her hesitation to return to the stage, and her realization that she can still perform and have a balanced life.

Now wearing a sparkling white top and sitting on a stool with a guitar in hand, Twain asked the crowd to light their phones as she played one of her newer compositions, “Today Is Your Day.”

It’s an organic, slightly earthy tune with a poignant message. To borrow Twain’s words: You can have all your moments.