Shania Twain was heavy on spectacle, light on subtlety at the Smoothie King Center

The New Orleans Advocate
By Keith Spera
June 11, 2018

Shania Twain knows how to make an entrance.

As a recording of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” rattled the Smoothie King Center’s rafters on Sunday, Twain emerged among the lower-bowl seats toward the back of the arena. Accompanied by a phalanx of security, she made her way across the floor, high-fiving ecstatic fans along the way.

Arriving at the stage, she handed off her cowboy hat to an assistant – a small but symbolic gesture.

Like Taylor Swift years later, Twain used the country music industry as a sort of Trojan horse. Las Vegas, not Nashville, was her true destination as she aspired to single-name pop-diva stardom.

Her current “Now” tour, following her 2017 comeback album of the same name, is a Vegas-worthy spectacle. The set itself was in constant motion, changing for every song, and often during songs. Five 10-foot-tall LED cubes, the main design element, ascended and descended, staggered or aligned in a row, often with musicians atop them. Stagehands spent nearly as much time on stage as the musicians and dancers, moving around staircases, the drum riser and props.

At times, it was too much. One of the show’s simplest effects – an enormous flower projected onto a scrim, continuously opening its petals during the ballad “From This Moment On” – was one of the most effective. But overall, subtlety was in short supply.

As with many divas, Twain has experienced both triumph and tragedy writ large. The latter include a bout of Lyme disease that diminished her voice. She spent years rehabilitating it to the point that she could resume her career, a long and difficult process; her voice is still not what it once was.

For all the effort that went into building and plotting the show, she occasionally let her guard down, which made her seem more human. She concluded “That Don’t Impress Me Much” atop a staircase as a dancer dipped her, then swung her up into an embrace. Twain decided they needed a do-over.

“He’s going to lift me again, light as a feather,” she said, slipping in a self-deprecating crack. (Though, as she noted later, she may no longer be capable of the back flips her younger self executed in long-ago videos, at 52 she still cuts a striking figure.)

Late in the show, opening act Bastian Baker, a handsome Swiss singer-songwriter who is a major star in Europe, returned to lend his voice, guitar and personality to the proceedings. But he couldn’t elevate “Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed” beyond another excuse for a bathroom break. That song's placement as the penultimate song in the regular set, when momentum should have been building to a crescendo, was especially odd. 

Kicking off the encore, the opening fanfare of Twain’s signature “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” electrified the room once again. There was flash aplenty – for no good reason, Wood was once again levitating 30 foot up on a cube –but also something more. Spectacle is so much more effective when paired with a great song.