Review: Shania Twain at American Airlines Center

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
By Preston Jones
August 11, 2015

DALLAS - How does an artist go backward and forward at the same time?

It’s a question Shania Twain spent the better part of 100 minutes trying to answer Monday at American Airlines Center.

She’s called her “Rock This Country” tour, Twain’s first national outing in 11 years and her first DFW stop in a dozen years, a farewell to the stage, one last chance to reconnect with fans in person.

Viewed from that perspective, Monday’s nearly sold-out show was a raging success, a non-stop parade of hits from country music’s mid-‘90s pop prime.

Those gathered inside the arena shouted the lyrics, snapped endless photos and generally bathed in the warm glow of nostalgia.

It didn’t hurt Twain milked her absence a little: “I’m just very grateful you’re here after all these years,” she said, to a predictably deafening barrage of screams.

Even the staging was a little throwback: Twain was flanked by seven band members, arrayed on tastefully lighted risers and dwarfed by a handful of video screens.

There were the occasional flashes of pyrotechnics, a few interactive elements (Twain was paraded around the AAC floor in an ersatz Popemobile; she rode a mechanical bull out over the crowd) and enough dry ice smoke to fill two arenas, but otherwise, Twain favored the less-is-more approach, with a mostly bare stage.

Although she hasn’t toured nationally, Twain still spent two years at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, anchoring a splashy extravaganza that seems to have served as a warm-up for her current run of dates.

Those months spent rehearsing and performing in the desert have given “Rock This Country” a sculpted tightness — 19 songs in 100 minutes — with nearly all of the fat carved from the setlist, an on-point Twain hitting her marks before the HD cameras, and nothing left but what fans crave: the hits.

Twain did not skimp in that department, working through a handful of costume changes and most of her four-album catalog: Honey, I’m Home; Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?; Any Man of Mine; I’m Gonna Getcha Good! and, of course, the one-two punch of You’re Still the One and From This Moment On, Twain’s sturdy contributions to the slow-dance canon, were showcased.

And therein lay the rub — Twain’s polished, airtight set was, effectively, a handsomely mounted museum piece, classic country-pop taken out of mothballs and paraded around for a little while.

There wasn’t much sense of the woman Twain is now, a multi-platinum superstar on the cusp of turning 50 later this month, and someone professing a desire to move behind the scenes, into more of a songwriter capacity.

Apart from her 2011 single Today is Your Day, Twain didn’t pull the wraps off any music from her as-yet-unreleased fifth album, which is reportedly in the works. (“Songs are my best friends,” Twain confided to the cheering room. “I can tell them anything!”

Today and No One Needs to Know were given the acoustic treatment, which gave the audience a glimpse of a route Twain might yet take. Certainly, the interlude was a high point of the evening, allowing Twain’s muscular, earthy alto to shine and pushing her out of the odd limbo between then and now, allowing her to be someone other than a vocalist clad in shimmering costumes.

There’s no reason Twain couldn’t enjoy a second act — country music has plenty of strong women making an impression circa 2015, albeit precious few angling for the crossover success Twain embodied in the ‘90s — but so much of Monday’s show was blinded by the triumphs of the past that discerning what’s next proved futile.

How does an artist go backward and forward at the same time?

Despite all of the accolades and a smartly assembled evening built to remind the adoring audience of her formidable reign as “queen of country-pop,” it is a question Shania Twain does not yet seem to have answered.”