Shania Twain dazzles at United Center despite shadow cast by Trump comments
By Jessi Roti
May 20, 2018
Shania Twain, with a nearly two-hour, 21-song set of greatest hits and pure country-pop pageantry, showed that she knows how to put on a show.
Those with an eye on the news might also wonder about her agility in dancing around the elephant in the room — her recent interview comments about President Donald Trump.
Currently in the second week of her “Shania Now” tour, she pulled out all the stops — from eight costume changes and vibrant set design to mid-air suspension and interpretative dancers. Opening the show with “Life’s About to Get Good” from her 2017 album “Now” — her first studio release in 15 years — Twain appeared in the crowd, donning a rhinestone cowboy hat, greeting fans along the way as she was ushered toward the stage.
A dizzying display of pop art-inspired and honky-tonk imagery danced across projection screens that doubled as stage risers as she and her backup singers and dance troupe worked double-time to keep the energy from dropping too much for too long.
It was evident the singer wanted to bring the party, often laughing into the microphone, striking power pose after power pose and tousling her hair while talking about how good it felt to be back in Chicago.
Whatever it was — the laughter or the excitement with which she attacked her set — had fans out of their seats early. “Come on Over,” from 1997’s two-time diamond-certified album of the same name, maintained its laid-back, bayou charm and was quickly followed by other hit singles, “Up!” “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much.”
Twain, who has been open about her struggle with regaining her vocal strength after a battle with Lyme disease resulting in dysphonia, sounded rested and clear. Extensive therapy has obviously helped her get comfortable in her lower register, her richer tone bringing a smoky feel to newer songs “More Fun” and “Let’s Kiss and Make Up.”
But the pace of the performance and song succession didn’t faze the seasoned music veteran as much as her onstage banter seemed to. Jovial, but clunky in delivery and overall awkwardness, she rambled. Her attempts at connecting deeper, whether discussing the inspiration behind lyrics to asking a fan and his partner to escort her back to the main stage after she flew over the crowd on a swing made from a guitar case during “You’re Still the One,” felt contrived — filler (maybe) for a different conversation she wanted to have, but didn’t know how it would be received.
Her audience seemed to have an unspoken agreement with their country queen — we won’t mention it, if you won’t. The “it” being the fallout from an April interview Twain did with The Guardian.
A discussion about her political stance sparked controversy when she said she would’ve voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election had she been able to.
“Even though he was offensive, he seemed honest,” she said. “Do you want straight or polite? Not that you shouldn’t be able to have both.”
After the interview was made public, Twain took to Twitter to apologize, adding that she was caught off guard and that, as a Canadian (who resides in Switzerland), she regretted answering without giving her response more context; that her “limited understanding” was that “the President talked to a portion of America like an accessible person they could relate to, as he was NOT a politician.”
On Saturday, it seemed odd that the singer who built a career on songs of empowerment and honesty had nothing to say about her comments.
Instead, she tiptoed around what could’ve dampened the evening’s mood, choosing to lean on the “unifying power of music.”
“This is where I feel the most at home,” she said, “with a mix of people that come together for one great time, for the love of music.”
It felt like a missed opportunity for Twain to drive home her apology.
It’s not that artists aren’t allowed to have political views, and it’s fair to say people haven't thought twice or as hard about artists’ affiliations before now.
Before sending off the night with “Rock this Country,” Twain barreled into the ultimate sing-along number “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”; singing, “Ain’t gonna act politically correct, I only wanna have a good time.”
Ziiiing. A phrase so innocently used in a ’90s pop song about feeling like a carefree woman out on the town has, in this political climate, been co-opted as a catch-all for absolving responsibility.
And there it was again — a cloud hanging over what was a stellar display of showmanship and craft.
Shania Twain’s set list: