By EMILY HERMAN, Arts & Entertainment Editor
After an 11-year break from touring, country superstar Shania Twain returned to the stage amidst fire and glitter to perform all her 1990s and early 2000s hits at her July 21 performance at D.C.’s Verizon Center, part of the Rock This Country tour.
Twain, whose 1997 album Come on Over was once the top-selling album of all time by a female artist, hasn’t had a new release since her Greatest Hits record in 2004. Nevertheless, the mixed-age and largely female audience cheered and screamed along to all her hits, including “Man! I Feel Like A Woman,” “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” and “From This Moment On.”
The Canadian singer’s success came mostly from the crossover appeal of her music; like Taylor Swift did earlier in her career, Twain had several songs on the country charts and the pop charts simultaneously, including the ballad “You’re Still The One” and “Party for Two,” which had a country version with Billy Currington and a pop version with Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath. (Opening act Gavin DeGraw filled their shoes for this tour.)
Twain played with genres again this tour by putting on a show that visually evoked 1980s rock. Switching her signature long, brown hair to platinum blonde and wearing at least eight sequined costumes in black and red, her look was far more Debbie Harry than Dolly Parton.
Twain’s voice didn’t sound as full as it did at the peak of her career, and she had a few pitch problems here and there. However, she spent the majority of the 90-minute set on her feet, rocking out on a number of stages.
In between songs, Twain reflected with the crowd about the transcendence of her music — she said she was so glad to see all her “old friends” and drew loud cheers when she guessed that a good portion of the audience last saw her when they were three to six years old.
Early in the show, a parent pushed their six-year-old girl onto the stage; the child sang the first half of the chorus to “Honey, I’m Home” five times with raucous encouragement from the whole room.
Twain, who revealed during her tour announcement in March that she plans to release an album at some point this year, said that music carried her through tough times. Her hiatus from music was largely because of personal issues — she suffers from dysphonia, a condition in which one’s muscles squeeze the voice box, and divorced her music producer husband in 2008.
“I wrote my way back to the stage,” she said before performing “Today Is Your Day,” a feel-good, folky single released in conjunction with a 2011 special with Oprah on OWN.
Despite these authentic moments, the performance was over-the-top, theatrical and at times borderline tacky. Twain literally went “Up!” while performing the title track of her 2002 album, riding a stationary mechanical bull through the air of the stadium. Her encore of “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” was literally so explosive that there was a giant fan on stage to offset the fireworks.
During one of the two extended instrumental breaks for costume changes, a dramatic montage of Twain working the camera in different bright red dresses flashed in the background. It looked like a reel of outtakes from a particularly big budget Pantene commercial.
However, even with these moments, Twain — who turns 50 next month — put on a thrilling show that transported the audience back 15 years with a bang, some fireworks and a sea of confetti.
The Rock This Country tour will continue across the U.S. and Canada through late October.