BY MELISSA RUGGIERI
Claps of thunder shook Philips Arena while dry ice snaked across the stage floor and lasers circled the audience.
Rising from underneath the stage on a steel platform in an eye-popping package of thigh-high black boots, shimmery crimson shorts with matching sunglasses and that newly lightened hair, Shania Twain still knows how to make an entrance.
It’s been more than a decade since the high priestess of country-pop played the arena and, if her seemingly genuine comments in a recent interview hold , Saturday night’s packed show on her “Rock This Country!” tour marked her final visit to Atlanta.
For close to a couple of hours, Twain delivered exactly the type of slick, glossy pyro-filled spectacle fans could hope for on a farewell jaunt, and stuck to a circa-2002 set list (she might own the record for the most song titles punctuated with an exclamation point!) that invited full-throttle sing-alongs.
Like her sisters in single-moniker achievement – Madonna and Cher – vocal superiority isn’t the reason to see Twain. You go for the hooky earworms – no matter how musically vapid – and the spare-no-expense stage production.
But still, Twain’s perfectly pleasant voice soared as she dove into the Def Leppard-influenced, Mutt Lange-crafted backbeat of “Honey, I’m Home” and strolled the expansive stage during “You Win My Love.”
Plenty of video screens existed to broadcast her luminescent smile to the rafters – and, while fans can argue for days about the nuances of her blonde locks, no sane person could deny that, on the cusp of turning 50, Twain looks stunning.
Throughout the show, most of Twain’s seven-piece band, all wearing headset mics, flanked her at the front of the stage near the fan-friendly catwalk.
Their taut harmonies anchored “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” and flashes of fiddle, banjo and pedal steel guitar on “No One Needs to Know” and “You’re Still the One” reminded that Twain is the best-selling female artist in country music.
She also retrieved opener Gavin DeGraw – sporting a Hawks baseball cap – to play the Billy Currington role on “Party for Two,” an exercise that fizzled more than sizzled as both singers were overpowered by the band.
Twain has never been a student of snappy banter, and until an acoustic segment during which she shared that the one constant in her life, especially through messy personal patches, has been music, much of her patter consisted of generic exclamations such as, “You guys are amaaaaaaazing!” and “You guys are party animals!”
Bless her, though, for having the patience to pose for endless selfies as she sang.
Twain gave fans a close-up view when she was pushed around the arena in a Plexiglas Twain-mobile during “Any Man of Mine” (complete with selfie stick) and later strapped herself onto a non-gyrating mechanical bull for a quick fly over the floor seats for “Up!” (get it?).
After an hour of concentrated Shania, her songs start to blur together. But, one of the reasons she’s sold 75 million-plus albums is because they all contain punchy, perfectly sculpted pop hooks. It’s not as if anyone ever looked to Twain for anything other than a fist-pumping female empowerment anthem or a wedding reception song.
Speaking of, “From This Moment On” escalated into grand pageantry as shards of pyro rained behind Twain – now clad in a glittery black coat – and slowly rotating lasers spotlighted her during her strongest vocal presentation of the night.
While her follow-up, the teasing kiss off, “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” could have used a jolt during those amusingly snarky asides, Twain maintained an infectious level of energy throughout the show.
If anything could be read into her frequent smiles and giggles, it’s that Twain is thoroughly enjoying this last joyride. Fans, meanwhile, received an expertly executed farewell.
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