Back in the late-‘90s/early-‘00s, a Shania Twain concert consisted primarily of the perfectly coiffed singer robotically circling the stage and signing autographs while half-heartedly singing pieces of her radio hits.
Age, wisdom, a few seriously crummy life experiences (dysphonia sidelined her voice, Mutt Lange sidelined her dignity) and perhaps a three-year stint in Las Vegas have transformed Twain as a performer.
At a packed Infinite Energy Arena on Monday, Twain, making her first Atlanta appearance since her not-really-a-farewell-after-all tour in 2015, charmed from the moment she made a surprise entrance from the back of the arena.
Kicking off the two-hour-plus show with the only notable song from her long-awaited “Now” album, the pleasantly chugging “Life’s About to Get Good,” Twain and a phalanx of backup singers grinned through the bubbly anthem as stacks of lighted cubes seesawed behind them.
No one has ever sought out Twain’s music for its depth, but she’s always been adept at presenting a slick, fun package.
That hasn’t changed.
What has evolved is her voice – huskier now not by choice, but in a way that gives a hint of heft to older material such as the perky pop of “Up!” and her endless string of stomp-and-clappers, “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” among the early arrivals.
At 52, Twain continues to age beautifully, but she also hasn’t forsaken a hint of naughtiness. She can still admirably pull off a wardrobe closet including a sequined gown with a slit up to her waist, red knee-high boots, sheer black everything and a cat suit, and look fabulous in all of it.
She stayed busy throughout the show, and employs a stage crew that barely took a break from shuttling staircases, unfurling curtains and transporting the platform bearing band MVP, drummer Elijah Wood, to various areas of the stage.
During many songs, it sounded as if Twain’s band – whose members popped on and off of the stage – were augmented by a track. But that electronic assistance only amplified the crispness of her Holy Trinity of Candy-Coated Twang – “Any Man of Mine,” “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” and “Honey, I’m Home.”
Throughout the night, Twain chatted frequently with the crowd. She called the gut-wrenching, yet inspirational, account of her marital strife, “Poor Me,” “part of my own personal healing” and before the rousing “I’m Alright,” reeled off platitudes about lights at the end of tunnels with such sincerity that you forgave their bedroom-poster simplicity.
When she coasted above the audience on a swing to the B-stage at the back of the venue, she joked about the numerous young audience members “who were 5” when she became popular – a fitting lead-in to “You’re Still the One,” which she strummed on her guitar.
Back on the main stage, she introduced a retrospective of her videos (a clever way to cover some of the songs that didn’t make it into the live set) before belting “From This Moment On” as purple lasers rotated around her.
Through it all – a humorously muffed dance step at the end of “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” a few sweet interactions with fans in the front rows (“I’m a mess!” she yelped after taking a selfie…um, sure, Shania), a spirited duet with show opener Bastian Baker on the glittering “Party for Two” – Twain grinned with the kind of laid-back joy that can’t be faked.
Bottom line, she’s been through hell and isn’t afraid to express herself anymore, whether in song or on stage. And that’s admirable.