Concert ReviewsFeatured

IN CONCERT: Shania Twain, 11.3.23, Wells Fargo Arena

If there were any questions as to how Shania Twain wants to be perceived these days, they were all answered and all the boxes checked Friday night during her sold out show at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines as part of Twain’s 2023 “Queen Of Me” tour.

It’s simple.

She wants to be a diva. And a goddess. And a country girl. And whatever else you need her to be.

Sound like anyone else these days? If you answered Travis Swift or Taylor Kelce, you’re close. It’s actually Taylor Swift.

But unless you’re into revisionist history, let’s get some facts straight. First and foremost, Twain isn’t the copycat here. Yes, Swift took her humble, acoustic-guitar-and-a-smile country music beginnings and used them to catapult her to the other side of the fence — the pop world — where she’s struck gold. But that path had already been blazed, and she’s admitted it. So has Carrie Underwood.

The trailblazer? None other than Shania Twain.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Twain was everything Swift is today, thanks to her countrified pop hybrid of music. The numbers don’t lie. She sold more than 100 million albums and quickly became the queen of this new form of country music that she and then-producer/husband Robert “Mutt” Lange had created.

But that, as they say, was then. Twain’s level of relevancy isn’t what it once was.

Or is it?

When the 58-year-old Twain, her three-piece backing band and pair of highly entertaining male background dancers rolled into Des Moines, it seemed as though she was on a mission to prove something —  a chip was on her shoulder, albeit a friendly one. An, “Oh, you think you’re good? Here, hold my champagne” chip maybe, but one nonetheless.

Everything about Twain on this night was large, beginning with the giant video screens behind her featuring the latest in computerized visuals from what was deemed “Twain Town Saloon.” Like Twain herself, it was ever-changing to meet the mood. One second it was an image from smoky, dark exterior of a dimly-lit pub at night, and the next it was something from outer space. At one point, it was the interior of a CD player. Trust us, you just have to see it.

Twain began the night in surprising fashion by popping out of a container that had been unceremoniously rolled to the middle of the walkway on the floor amongst the seated fans, quickly going into “Waking up Dreaming” before continuing things onstage after her first of a few wardrobe changes with “Up!” and “Don’t Be Stupid.”

“I’m Gonna Getcha Good” featured Twain mounting a sleek, chrome flourished, futuristic motorcycle for some song and flash — literally.

Let’s not kid anyone here. The “lusty babe on a motorcycle” posing spectacle was just one of a handful of times in which Twain sent a not-so-subtle reminder to all comers that she still has “it” — and then some.

Twain then made yet another transition, morphing into a pseudo-country girl, slowing the pace down for a few songs and her acoustic on “Come On Over” and the mega-million selling, “You’re Still The One.”

Nothing was as revealing, though, as during “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” when Twain abandoned her usual lead vocal delivery for a lower keyed harmonization part. Her 20-year battle with Lyme Disease and its after-effects that began in 2003 when she was bitten by a tick during a horseback ride, still linger. The illness has taken a toll on Twain’s singing voice, which today is done a lower, more guttural-sounding register. It still works, mind you, but make no doubt about it, it’s different.

What doesn’t work, though, is the blatant attempt at “coolness” in “Pretty Liar” from her latest album, “Queen of Me.” Lyrically, the “I can see your pants are on fire/You’re such a fucking liar,” and “So you got a big gun and you really wanna come” lyrics, aren’t offensive. Coming from Twain, they’re just stupid. Note to Twain: Follow your own advice. Don’t be. At least a large “Parental Advisory Explicit Content” sign flashed behind her to let the crowd know what was about to, uh, come.

Twain got things back on track immediately after, however, by bringing out a dozen or so standing-level tables, each having a light in the middle and a local couple surrounding it for “From This Moment On.” Prior to the start of the song, Twain made her way around to each table and had a photo taken with each couple. The audience interaction continued later when Twain told the audience that she had seen a post on her Instagram page from a local woman named Trisha who was going to be at the concert. Without knowing whether the woman was actually in attendance, Twain called for her to come to the stage, taking some a cappella song requests from the audience in the meantime. For five minutes or so it seemed as though Trisha had had a change of plans and wasn’t actually at the show. At that point, even Twain had given up and brought up another crowd member up named Mitchell who proceeded to dance himself to the audience’s delight.

And then they found Trisha, who then sang “Party For Two” with Twain, backed by her full band. Truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it was fun to watch her revel in it.

“Forever And For Always,” and  “If You’re Not In It For Love, I’m Outta Here,” closed the show before Twain came back out for the encore dressed in her now-famous black outfit and top hat she donned in 1997 for the “Man, I Feel Like A Woman,” video. Twain said she hadn’t worn the outfit since, but decided it was time to enjoy it. In all likelihood, the men (and probably women, too)  at Wells Fargo Arena did, too.

Twain touched all the bases Friday night. What does she want to be above all? The queen of “new” country. And she still is, Tay Tay or not.

It is what it is.

Long live the queen.

By Darren Tromblay