by Aprille Hanson
On Tuesday night, June 12, Shania Twain made three women’s dreams come true. During her “Now Tour” at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, she brought three friends in matching concert T-shirts up to the main stage to take a selfie with them. The women were so in awe, they could barely keep it together, giggling while admitting they would jump on their beds as little girls and sing along to her music.
That memory connected all the women in their 20s, 30s and beyond filling the arena. Because for almost two hours, we were kids again, jamming out to our favorite songs.
For those of us who grew up on country music, Twain was country and cool. Her music was fun and empowering, whether she was flipping gender roles in “Honey I’m Home,” demanding respect in “Any Man of Mine” or beating the odds of love in “You’re Still the One.”
She was more than just a hit-making country artist -- she was a beautiful role model. Dubbed as the “Queen of Country Pop,” Twain has sold more than 100 million albums since her debut album in 1993, making her the best-selling female artist in country music history. It’s a feat she achieved with just five albums in a 24-year span. And whether you’re a fan of pop country or not, there’s no denying that the twang infused with pop sounds changed the industry.
There would be no Taylor Swift without Shania Twain, even though it’s clear that Twain stayed much closer to her roots that Swift ever desired. But, Twain broadened country’s horizons.
Her tour opened with Bastian Baker, a Swiss pop artist with success in Europe. His sound was decent, but what was most impressive was his ability to hold the crowd with just himself and a guitar in a sprawling arena. His cover of Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” was better than any of his original songs, which is to be expected.
Fans roared as Twain hit the stage with the first single “Life’s About to Get Good” off her Now album, which came out last year. It was her first album in 15 years. She was diagnosed with dysphonia, a vocal cord disorder, which she admitted to Rolling Stone in February 2017, “I’m a different singer now.” The condition causes hoarseness and trouble speaking, which required vocal therapy and staying out of the recording studio, according to Rolling Stone.
And while there are noticeable differences in her tone, her ability to perform hasn’t missed a beat.
Her energy level was strong throughout, blazing through more of her modern hits “Come on Over,” “Up!” and “Poor Me.”
However, it was clear most in the arena were not there to hear her new stuff. It’s a sad fact for legendary artists who struggle to be heard for more than just their hits. But the reality is, Twain’s new material doesn’t even come close to the substance of the songs that made her a star. Everyone was there to hear hits off of The Woman in Me (1995) and Come On Over (1997).
“Don't Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)” was the first taste of her classics, which then launched into “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” a clear fan favorite.
She was on a good roll, but squeezed in “Let’s Kiss and Make Up” from her newest album. At moments like that, the crowd took their seats, used the bathroom or replenished their beer supply.
But her triple threat line-up eight songs in was really why all her fans showed up: “Any Man of Mine,” “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” and “Honey, I’m Home.” It was by far the best part of the night, with Twain eagerly traveling down that road of nostalgia with her fans.
In the most poignant moment of the evening, Twain explained that her inspiration for “You’re Still the One,” co-written by her and her ex-husband Mutt Lange, was from a relationship she “thought” would last forever. In 2010, the couple divorced after 17 years of marriage when he had an affair with her best friend. She married that friend’s ex-husband, Frédéric Thiébaud, a year later.
Because the single was her biggest crossover hit, not singing it would be sacrilege, so she instead made it clear she was singing it as a love letter to her fans that have been here all these years. It was a beautiful moment of thanks for the years of support.
Other highlights of the show included “From This Moment On,” “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!” and “(If You’re Not in It for Love) I’m Outta Here!” She gave us little snippets from music videos of other hits, like “Forever And For Always” that desperately should have been performed in full instead of newer choices like “Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed,” by far the worst of the set.
Twain had teased earlier in the concert, bringing out that signature black hat, that maybe she was going to launch into her megahit “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” a little early. But no such luck. However, it was perfect to include in her two-song encore, breaking out the black dress and strutting/singing with attitude. It was the best way to end the night, making the final song “Rock This Country!” seem a little tacked onto what was already a perfect closer.
It’s clear by her commentary filled with “likes” and “totally” coupled with her new music that she is trying to appeal to the younger generation, but it’s something she really does not need to do.
She’s a legend and if younger audiences can’t see that, her longtime fans will keep reminding her.