Opening a Shania Twain show in Las Vegas during rodeo week is either the biggest stroke of luck or the best marketing plan ever. Stetsons and boots dotted The Strip, between rodeo events and western-themed holiday craft fairs. The only logical destination was to see Twain's "Still The One" residency, and come they did. The crossover country performer took to the stage at a packed Caesars Palace Colosseum over the weekend after her first week of shows, and after eight years out of the music spotlight, Vegas was definitely ready for her.
"(AEG) had been trying to get Shania to come to the Colosseum and Vegas for almost 10 years," show producer Raj Kapoor told Billboard. "When Shania decided that she was going to come back in some sort of way, that's when this conversation opened. Since then Shania put a lot of thought into the process of the show. She was very determined with the set list from the very beginning that it was going to be all hits. That was the basis for how we started developing the show."
The setlist for Vegas was indeed chock-full of hits, kicking off with "I'm Gonna Getcha Good" during which the 47-year-old singer made her grand entrance in a sparkling bodysuit and boots while riding a flying motorcycle shaped like a horse, a dominant theme throughout -- aside from the mechanical one, Twain featured two live horses during her performance, one black and one white.
"She knew she wanted to have live horses," Kapoor explained. "She knew that even though the horses were going to be trained, she didn't want them doing tricks. She wanted them to be appreciated for their natural beauty and majesty. It was more important for them to be seen in a natural way, and for the interaction between her and the horses to be seamless, not based on tricks and other things that were unnatural for horses to do. She has an appreciation for nature and that's what she wanted to convey in the storytelling."
After being featured in a country-western style filmed piece where a dark and light Shania battle, the black horse carried Twain into her salon set, sporting her first costume change of the night -- denim and pink cowboy boots, perfect for singing hits like "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" and "Any Man Of Mine" complete with backup dancers. The next transition re-imagined an iconic Twain outfit, the leopard hooded catsuit from "That Don't Impress Me Much," which Twain hypes with a video package featuring her in a redone version, vamping on a spinning chair and doing her best hot librarian look before emerging to knock out the number.
Despite the high-energy, fast pace of the 90-minute, 18-song set, Twain does take time to talk to the audience, her voice betraying just a hint of nerves. She told anecdotes about her childhood and her start in singing, even going as far as to carve out an entire section to bring up fans on stage and have a campfire singalong. (Full disclosure: I was attending the concert with a friend dressed in full "That Don't Impress Me Much" costume who got taken up on stage for the crowd interaction moment. She reports that Twain was "very small," "smelled nice" and was wearing fishnet tights during this portion of the evening.) After a rousing round of campfire songs -- and a spin during our show by a rodeo-attendee fan who joined her onstage -- Twain rushed off only to return with her second, and most important, horse of the night.
"She definitely knew she wanted a white horse in the show," Kapoor explained of the dramatic reveal of her second horse performer. "The white horse was the big moment in the show, the centerpiece for the show. The white horse was symbolic of this rebirth and re-energized person that has made her way back to the stage."
Indeed, Twain's moment with this horse is worth the price of admission alone, as she sings "Still The One" to him center stage, leaving the crowd in awe both of the song and of the horse that somehow manages to be perfectly trained and perfectly natural all at once. This is followed by "From This Moment On," with a still-white Twain singing while standing on a rippling white sheet, essentially emerging from a pure white ocean of spectacle.
Of course, the show doesn't end there. Her encore of "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!" was the first time in the night that the entire crowd got to its feet. With a blinging Vegas-style name-in-light display as her backdrop and iconic top hat and floor length jacket combo on, Twain brought the house down.
Twain's new home shares a rotating residency with other legacy performers like Celine Dion, Elton John and Rod Stewart, but Twain's approach is less concert and more theatrical, which she achieves with her backup dancers (who sometimes pose as musicians), video segments and, well, all those horses. Plus when you're at a Twain show, not only do you see and hear her, you smell her too.
"You know when a women comes into the room and you can practically smell her? We created a scent for that moment." Yes, inspired by the practice of large Vegas hotels to infuse the air with a subliminal scent, Twain's show subtly transitions from her own fragrance (available for purchase in the gift shop) to a saloon scent (leathery and vintage, said Kapoor) to the smell of a campfire.
"Shania: Still the One" ran through Dec. 15 and returns with a 14-show engagement starting March 19.