Shania Twain Rode an Invisible Horse Through the Sky and It Ruled
By Bree Davies
August 17, 2015
In 1999, I was working at a toy store in the mall called the Learningsmith. As it went in "education"-oriented mall retailers of the time, we sold "For Dummies" books, yo-yos, Hoberman Spheres, telescopes, Thomas the Tank Engine swag and basically anything that could be even mildly classified as a tool for learning. Like many parts of modern life teetering on the edge of the Internet explosion, the Learningsmith was still deeply rooted in the past, selling a shit-ton of random VHS tapes. Among the assortment of Baby Einstein videos, Andrea Bocelli concert films and Teletubbies episodes, we sold (for reasons unknown) the Shania Twain Live VHS tape. I watched it every day of my nineteen-year-old life as an apron-wearing (aprons were a very popular store-full-of-crap uniform in the late '90s) yes-woman at the mall.
Through repeated exposure to Shania, I became a lover and appreciative fan. Last Friday night at the Pepsi Center, I reveled in still being a Shania fan — an admirer whose brain had stored away all of the lyrics to "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" and "Come On Over," only to unfurl them with fury as I sang along to every word. Rock This Country — Twain's first tour in eleven years and one that is being touted as a "farewell" — pulled out every single stop imaginable for a pop show in 2015. There was fire. There was confetti. There were smoke and lasers and fiddle players. At one point, Twain jumped into her own convertible version of the Pope Mobile and cruised around the floor of the Pepsi Center in order to high-five dozens of fans, all while belting out "Any Man of Mine" in perfect time.
From the moment she rose from beneath the stage on an industrial metal frame pillar singing "Rock This Country," Twain was 100 percent on; her song choices, outfits and over-the-top stage antics were flawless. The costuming was a show in itself: There was casual Shania, in a bejeweled Rolling Stones tunic, red aviators and a jacket with two-foot long fringe, barreling gracefully through "Honey I'm Home" and "Love Gets Me Every Time" as she skipped along the stage. There was the superhero Shania, in a leotard and never-ending over-the-knee boots who appeared for the literally explosive encore of "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" There was dramatic Shania, who shed the glitz for a few moments to grab her acoustic guitar and serenade the crowd with "Today Is Your Day," "No One Needs to Know" and tear-jerker "You're Still the One." Sassy Shania romped through "That Don't Impress Me Much" and "If You're Not in It for Love." Each version of Shania was made to make you look just as much as it was made to make you listen.
Every turn in the ninety-minute show felt designed to out-do the moment occurring just before. Even the mid-set staging changes involving rotating lighting rigs and floor-to-ceiling video screens aglow with slow-motion images of Shania in gorgeously gaudy attire were created for the sole purpose of keeping every pair of eyes engaged. Though the lasers and fog and pyrotechnics put Twain's show on par with her much younger arena-tour-level contemporaries, it was the transformer-like lift that unfolded from the stage that pushed her into a category all her own. Jumping on a saddle mounted to the end of the stage extension, Twain rode through the enclosed sky on an invisible horse while singing "Up!" and waving to hundreds of fans seated in the rafters. The confetti cannons came at the very end of the show, but even those seemed contrived compared to Shania's 360-degree ride to reach the farthest of her devotees.
There have been many country-to-pop crossovers in the history of modern music, but when it comes to the current version of a pop-country mega-star, Twain looks and sounds like the originator of the genre. Seeing Twain in 2015 had me curious: How would her contribution to the canon of Spice Girls-level mainstream feminism lite of the late '90s translate to the current world? Judging by the amount of women (and men) in "Man! I Feel Like a Woman" T-shirts in the sold-out crowd, Twain is doing just fine. Though her use of sexy shirtless hunks as a backdrop during "I Ain't No Quitter" felt a little dated, from a pop perspective, it was clear that this kind of eye candy fit well with the song as the country hit that it was.
Considering how incredible Twain's Pepsi Center show was, it's hard to believe Rock This Country could really be her farewell tour. After spending so much time away, Twain is more on top of her game than ever, bringing to the table everything pop stars half her age do. Shania Twain, I hope you tour forever. But if you don't, I'll find a copy of that Shania Twain Live VHS and then try to track down a VCR to play it on.