Review: Shania Twain brings Vegas magic to Amalie Arena in long-awaited Tampa return

Tampa Bay Times
By Jay Cridlin
June 2, 2018

It was a reappearing act straight out of Vegas.

After her drummer banged out the stomp-stomp-clap intro to We Will Rock You/Any Man of Mine for a still-lit Amalie Arena, Shania Twain materialized like a sequiny dream in Section 114, jolting nearly 13,500 fans to their feet to whip out their iPhones.

How'd she make it up there? Had she been hiding up there this whole time? Is that why we haven't seen her in so long?

Fourteen years, one Caesars residency and a not-so-final farewell tour after her last trip to Tampa, Twain delivered a Strip-worthy spectacle of stage magic and classic pop-country on Saturday. She never played here in her 40s, but at 52, she reminded everyone why her big hooks and bold prints had such an impact on the Marens and Kelseas and Kaceys of today.

With neon and cheetah print swirling on screen behind her, Twain showcased the poppier side of her catalog early. Her opening one-two punch of Life's About to Get Good (a blend of reggae and diet EDM) and Come On Over (sunny, summery calypso), before her enormous, shape-shiftng stage thrust her up toward the rafters for the poppy, peppy Up!. Shortly thereafter came two Come On Over classics, Don't Be Stupid (You Know I Love You) and That Don't Impress Me Much), both modernized with power-poppy, four-on-the-floor caffeine.

"I'm having too much fun already," Twain said after a dancer dipped her back for a final woo! on That Don't Impress Me Much. "The night is just beginning. How much fun are you guys having?"

In truth, Twain didn't have to do much but let the stage morph and her dancers twirl around her; she could focus on singing and letting the shadows of her flowing, peek-a-boo gowns fill the spotlight on the stage.

But when she let her country roots show in the middle of the set, a different Twain came out. The fiddle-fueled Any Man Of Mine positively filled the arena, with Twain digging deep for the key change and kicking out a little shimmy-shake at the end. The Bakersfield-baked Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under? embraced Twain's campier side, while the rollicking Honey I'm Home once again had her kicking up the heels of her cherry-red boots.

On the thanks-for-your-service ballad Soldier, Twain hoisted up into a harness, floating across the arena on a chariot resembling a guitar case. She stayed there, hovering around luxury box level and strumming an acoustic guitar, for You're Still The One, surrounded by swaying phone lights and voices singing along.

The momentum then took a nosedive as Twain gathered a posse of kids and superfans from the crowd to join her up on stage. The kids were tough interviews. One woman's battery died during a selfie. It all went on too long and this was before the mid-show video montage that served little purpose beyond killing time for another costume change.

But the show must go on for a showman like Shania, and so back she went to her bag of genre-twisting magic tricks: Sultry soul on More Fun, adult-contempo pop on From This Moment On. Lasers, LED-befrocked dancers and Knopfleresque gave I'm Gonna Getcha Good a New Wave feel. And she brought out her opening act, Swiss singer Bastian Baker think Shawn Mendes meets Thomas Rhett meets Ryan Tedder for a rocked-up Party of Two and dub-doused Swingin' With My Eyes Closed.

As big a country star as Twain may be and let's all tip our Stetsons to her shelf of CMA and ACM Entertainer of the Year trophies her polymathic, genre-hopping style is the reason she's sold 100-million-odd records. Through the tribulations she's endured since her last trip to Tampa a voice-loss scare, the dissolution of her marriage to Mutt Lange, a retirement tour that didn't stick she still comes off as giggly and up for anything. You can feel it in all the exclamation-pointy singles she played Saturday: Up! (If You're Not In It For Love) I'm Outta Here! Man! I Feel Like a Woman! Rock this Country!

At the beginning, Twain came out of nowhere. By the end, she had fans hooting and clapping and covered in streamers and confetti, filing out as David Bowie's Let's Dance echoed overhead. We were far from Las Vegas, but the sensations Twain gave us still felt a little like magic.