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Twain plays the queen of everybody

Xfinity Center, Mansfield, Mass., July 9, 2023

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Shania Twain has received her fair share of criticism over the decades for stretching the boundaries of what's considered country music (or not). One might still make that argument – although Twain sounded far more country than a lot of current acts do these days – but there can be no argument about her performing chops.

Quite simply, Twain and her supple band were musically satisfying, visually hyper pleasing to the hilt and just plain fun.

Twain was wheeled out secretly in a box to the center of the seated area where she popped up to get the party going with "Wide Awake Dreaming" from her most recent disc, "The Queen of Me." Once Twain retreated to the stage, she took off from there with the visual of a rocket ship with a graphic of Twain on it taking off on the screen behind her. The graphic told the truth of what was to unfold.

Twain relied more on her hits than her most recent disc, "The Queen of Me" from which she only played three songs.

While her hits may clearly be on the pop side of country, more importantly, they worked exceedingly well live. When you can come up with "Up!," "Don't Be Stupid (You Know I Love You," "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!" and the ballad "You're Still the One" in order, it's almost easy work for artist and audience.

Still, Twain smartly presented her songs, singing well, while often aided by her band backing her up vocally. She hit the right buttons to keep the show moving from beginning to the concluding song, "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!," appearing in here iconic leopard outfit (her only outfit change of the night).

Twain gave a different side of her megahit, "Whose Boots Have Your Boots Been Under" where with acoustic guitar in hand, she sang several stanzas of her original version - as a slow, sad tune. "When I got into the studio, it started rocking a little bit more and then ending up being a real shit kicker," she informed the sold-out crowd. With that she tore into the fast-paced version.

Twain may have seemed like some Hollywoodish superstar with silver shades at one point while draped over an elongated motorcycle prop. That ultimately was not the case. Twain certainly likes the interact with her fans. She called up on stage two fans including the green lame suited Justin, who may have been more than Twain would have ever bargained for as he was about as comfy on the stage as she was. Who ever insists on taking two sellfies? He even sang to Twain, who went along with all of it.

She paused at a few points to read signs in the audience and comment on them. These were the unscripted moments of the night because the rest of it was. Not a surprise given the heavy use of graphics.

As for the country quotient, fiddle player/guitarist Cory Chuko made sure of that with engaging, all-in fiddle runs. particularly on the female empowering "Any Man of Mine."

He was part of a tight, six-piece band including drummer Tif "Teddy" Lamson, who set a very steady beat. And perhaps the standout of the group was the dexterous Re'Sean Pates. He is a back-up singer, but he also lent his skills at theatrics in dancing and interacting with Twain, not to mention a few front and black flips and being the human Energizer bunny rabbit. He and fellow backing singer Paul Michael Clark both played key roles.

So did the eye candy visuals that punctuated the show. The backing screens contained cartoonish visuals of towns and trains among other items working expertly in tandem with the songs themselves. Sometimes visuals can interfere with the songs and be more head scratchers than anything else. Not tonight.

About the only slow point was a medley of five lesser known songs that Twain sang later in the show. They all sounded rather generic and never came close to reaching the heights of the rest of the evening. Better to have scratched that from the set and either play selections from "The Queen of Me" or the lone major hit she did not play, "(If You're Not in It for Love) I'm Outta Here!"

Aside from that, deserves much credit for a well-conceived show musically of country and pop, visually and artistically. Twain may not have played the "Queen of Me" tonight. Instead, she was the queen of everybody fortunate enough to be there.

Breland opened with a generally pleasing set. The New Jersey native has enjoyed a good amount of attention with his combo of country, rock, gospel and hip hop. He was a bit hard to hear at times, but scored big time with "Throw It Back" and the closing "Praise the Lord." He also showed up for "inhale/Exhale Air' and "Party of Two" in Twain's set and acquitted himself well.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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