Rested voice, happy home have Shania Twain shining on tour
The Columbus Dispatch
By Kevin Joy
September 24, 2015
NATIONWIDE ARENA, 200 W. NATIONWIDE BLVD.
Contact: 1-800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Opening act: Gavin DeGraw
Showtime: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Tickets: $46 to $136
Yep, she’s still the one.
Shania Twain, the Canadian country-pop queen who in the 1990s was as ubiquitous as Beanie Babies and flared jeans, has taken a break from retirement.
Not that her lively songs of love and empowerment weren’t on heavy rotation as customer-service hold music and in your minivan during the interim.
After almost a decade of silence — with Twain, now 50, retreating from the limelight to her Switzerland home in 2004 — the Man! I Feel Like a Woman! workhorse is back in the saddle (and a blonde now, to boot).
“This is a very, very special time for me,” the singer told Good Morning America earlier this year in announcing her 48-city tour, which on Wednesday will make a stop in Nationwide Arena.
“I’m going to make the most of it; let’s put it that way.”
That is because Twain’s ongoing “Rock This Country” dates — since expanded to accommodate 72 performances through Oct. 27 — will be her last.
A supersized stadium spectacle suggests a fitting sendoff for the record-breaking vocalist, whose 85-million-plus album sales have made her the best-selling female country artist in history. Of that figure, 40 million are tied to 1997’s Come on Over, the top-selling record of all time by a female of any genre.
As a performer, Twain has long maintained a personal touch that belies her celebrity.
A Dispatch reviewer called her “the Oprah Winfrey of pop-music stars” after a past central Ohio gig found the A-list artist chatting constantly with audience members and inviting others onstage for singalongs and a raffle.
But assuming the more physical demands of her old routine wasn’t easy.
Twain, after all, left the music business when dysphonia — an ailment in which the muscles squeeze the voice box — weakened her voice. Surgery wasn’t necessary, but significant rehabilitation was needed for her to recover.
The first big test was a two-year performance residency that launched in 2012 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
A critically acclaimed show that took audiences through the various stages of Twain’s blockbuster career, it grossed $43 million and sold more than 346,000 tickets.
Nonetheless, “It was such a challenge getting back up onstage, getting my voice in order, getting my confidence back up,” Twain told The Wall Street Journal in June. “The whole mountain was pretty high. I figured if I could accomplish that, then I’d be very happy and I’d end on a high.”
It wasn’t the end for the Up! diva, of course.
Twain has said she wanted another chance to crisscross North America in order to have yet another round of face time with listeners in their respective hometowns.
And while she is working on “very relatable” yet “unexpected” new material absent the guidance of a songwriting team, Twain sticks to the classics (Any Man of Mine, I’m Gonna Getcha Good!) in her latest live set lists.
“When I go to a concert, I want to hear the songs that I’m familiar with,” she told reporters on a conference call in May. “I’m in a farewell spirit, but I’m in a reunion spirit to get back together with the fans again, and that will be emotional to me.”
Her own path, likewise, has been fraught with emotion.
Born Eilleen Regina Edwards in Windsor, Ontario, the girl grew up in a poor household that struggled to pay bills and put food on the table. By age 8, she was singing in bars for money; two years later, she was writing her own material.
Although she toured with a cover band after high school and began to garner interest from record producers, the 1987 deaths of her mother and stepfather in a car crash took her back home to care for younger siblings.
She persevered, changing her first name to Shania (the Twain surname was her late stepfather’s) and, within time, broke into the music industry.
Among early admirers: producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, who became Twain’s husband and guided her ascent. They divorced in 2010 after Twain found out Lange had allegedly had an affair with her best friend.
In a surprise twist worthy of a country song, Twain married her former friend’s ex-spouse — a Swiss-born Nestle executive — a year later.
With the physical and emotional tumult behind her, Twain is happy to focus on the positive and revive her catalog to entertain and inspire.
The feeling is mutual.
“I look for the courage in others,” Twain told Good Morning America, “and I find mine.”