With nothing to prove, Shania lets it rip Wednesday night in Jacksonville
By Tom Szaroleta
July 15, 2015
Shania Twain doesn’t have a new album to promote. No TV show or CMT special or movie to push. No real reason at all for going out on what is reportedly her final tour.
That sets her free to do pretty much anything she wants, to really let rip with all her hits and not worry about playing the stuff nobody wants to hear anyway.
Wednesday night at a packed Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, she did just that. For nearly two hours she threw a party, complete with fireworks and flamethrowers and laser beams and confetti cannons.
She hasn’t toured in more than a decade (unless you count a couple of years of shows in Las Vegas), but she sure didn’t seem rusty on Wednesday night. She was all over the stage — all over the arena, in fact, thanks to a wheeled mini-stage that she rode in a complete circuit of the floor, pushed by burly security guards — for the whole night, high kicking and tossing her hair and leaning back to hit those really big notes she’s famous for.
Her voice was often muddled and sometimes drowned out by her seven-piece band on Wednesday. But when the band quieted down during the slow numbers and during a short acoustic set midway through the show, it became clear that Twain’s still got it. When she needs to, she can still toss in a in a hiccup or a plaintive wail or one of those curious warbles that are all over her biggest hits. She was particularly good on an acoustic take on “You’re Still the One.”
Back in her ‘90s heyday, she was often criticized by country fans for being too pop, which is kind of ironic when you consider what passes for country today. There certainly were pop overtones to parts of her show on Wednesday, but there’s no question that it was a country show (what else could you call “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?”). Two fiddlers (three on at least one song) and a pedal-steel guitar will do that. And if there were any doubts at all, they were settled when a red-fringed saddle rose out of the stage on the end of a crane and carried her in a big circle out over the crowd.
Her set was heavy on hits from the ‘90s, when she dominated the country and pop charts — “You Win My Love,” “Any Man of Mine,” “Come on Over,” “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” “(If You’re Not In In for Love) I’m Outta Here!” — many of which have big, heavy beats perfect for playing really loud in an arena.
Her band, all dressed in black, showed a lot of versatility, jumping from one instrument to another with each new song — guitars, mandolins, banjos, fiddles, pedal steel and keyboards. They also had to keep the crowd going during three costume changes.
They played on just about the most complicated stage imaginable. Pieces would rise and shift and slide so that, from song to song, it sometimes seemed as if you were watching on TV and someone switched the channel.
Gavin DeGraw opened the show with a pleasant enough 40 minute set, but he was an odd choice as an opening act because there is nothing even a little bit country about him. He’s a piano-playing rocker whose style didn’t really translate into a big arena setting. He might be great headlining his own show in a smaller theater, but he seemed out of place opening for a big country star on an arena tour.