Shania Twain says 'so long,' but not goodbye

The country-rocking superstar discusses her future and ongoing farewell tour, which stops in San Diego Saturday.

The San Diego Union-Tribune
By George Varga
August 20, 2015

Shania Twain has no plans to sing “Hello, Goodbye” during her Saturday concert at Valley View Casino Center. But the title of that 1967 Beatles classic — which was recorded two years after Twain’s birth — aptly captures the “Welcome back/So long!” duality of her ongoing Rock This Country tour.

The five-month concert trek marks the first time the pioneering country-pop superstar has toured North America in more than 11 years. It’s also her farewell to the road.

Twain recently completed a two-year concert residency in Las Vegas at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. As of next year, she vows, she’ll focus on recording, not touring. But first comes Rock This Country.

“It’s just a celebration tour for a lot of reasons,” Twain said, speaking from the Bahamas during a May teleconference.

“I’m reuniting with the fans out in their own hometowns, (which) I have not done in a decade. It is a goodbye to the stage, so the show is just full of great technology, the highest-end possible. It’s a very dynamic show, more dynamic than ever before, and I just think no one has ever seen me in this light ever before. It’s a whole new fresh production, entirely different from Vegas.”

Staging aside, what can fans expect onstage from one of the biggest-selling female singers of the past 25 years in any genre?

“It’s gonna rock, that’s for sure, and it’ll be a lot of fun,” Twain said. “I’m in a good spirit for it and just trying to visit the fans’ hometowns and come to them. Because, the last two years in Las Vegas, the fans have been coming to me. So I really feel pumped to get out there and go to their towns and bring them this whole new show, this big sign-off, this big farewell.”

Playing up her hits

Accordingly, Twain’s repertoire for the tour focuses heavily on the very big crossover hits that made her perhaps the single most successful country-pop star of the 1990s.

Her set list is packed with such fan favorites as “Any Man of Mine,” “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” “Come On Over,” “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?,” “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” and “Honey, I’m Home,” perhaps the first song by a major female country-music artist to reference PMS in its lyrics.

Twain’s albums have sold more than 75 million copies worldwide. She is now at work on a new collection of songs, which she is recording backstage and in hotel rooms.

Even so, she said, it’s unlikely she’ll preview new material on her tour.

“There won’t be any new music from the new album on the set list at this point,” she said. “Maybe closer to the end of the tour, I might be able to pull some of that music in. I don’t want to bore people with songs they don’t know. When I go to a concert, I want to hear the songs that I’m familiar with. …

“This tour is really about the classics. The point is to say goodbye to the stage, on a high, with my friends, with my fans.”

Many of her hits in the 1990s were co-written with her now ex-husband, famed producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, whose other credits include overseeing albums by Def Leppard, AC/DC and Maroon 5. Now, as then, Twain maintains that she prefers writing songs to performing them onstage.

“I pursued it — I wanted to be a success, but if I had achieved it without my songwriting, I wouldn’t have wanted that,” she said in a 1997 Union-Tribune interview. “The goal has never been to be famous, it’s been to be musical, and musically successful.”

Overcoming dysphonia

And now, with her Rock This Country farewell tour?

“It’s certainly not my retirement from music. I’ll be doing that until the day I die,” Twain said. “But the performance side of it, I feel, is a phase in my life. I’ve been onstage since I was 8 years old. I really put in my fair share of performances. I want to write more.”

That Twain is singing now, let alone on tour, is not something she takes for granted.

In 2003, she was one of the halftime show performers at Super Bowl XXXVII at Qualcomm Stadium. No Doubt and Sting also performed. In 2004, she stopped touring to concentrate on being a new mother. Twain subsequently developed dysphonia, an affliction of the voice box, which threatened her ability to sing and speak.

“I wasn’t sure I was ever going to sing again,” she said. “Initially, (the sabbatical was) just for the break and to be a mom. The first few years after the (last) tour were deliberately to concentrate on my son and my home. The shorter sabbatical became a long one, and the problem with my voice compounded.

“It was very, very scary. It went way beyond not being able to perform, beyond concerns for my career as a singer. It was a part of me I was losing, like losing a hand. I really thought I had lost the voice that I knew. It was something I was having a terrible time coming to terms with. Before I gave up completely, I found the courage to tackle it and take it on. For a period, I believed I would never sing again, and it was incredibly depressing.”

‘Happiest you can be’

Twain, who turns 50 on Aug. 28, is a native of Windsor, Ontario. Born Eileen Regina Edwards, she cut her teeth singing in bars and clubs in her native Canada, fronting a band called Long Shot.

Now, the woman who put sexy back into country music, more than a decade before Justin Timberlake topped the charts with his hit “SexyBack,” is ready to work behind the scenes. She wants to be heard, but not seen, at least not onstage.

“I want to make a lot more records,” Twain affirmed. “I miss making records, and I haven’t made enough in my life and in my career. I also want to write songs for other artists who are coming up and enjoy them having their moment on the stage.”

Her pending retirement from touring may also have been inspired by age.

“I think anybody in the second half of their 40s is already considering what it’s going to mean to be 50,” Twain said. “And, for me, I think it’s an inspiration and a motivator to be my best. I sort of feel if I don’t push myself and bring myself to be the best that I can be now, it’s only going to get harder after that.

“You’ve got to be the fittest you can be, the most educated you can be, the happiest you can be. And I feel it sets a positive, strong platform for myself to jump from, and it sets the tone for the rest of my life, is how I see it.”

Shania Twain, with Gavin DeGraw

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Valley View Casino Center, 3500 Sports Arena Blvd., Midway District

Tickets: $66-$136

Phone: (888) 929-7849