BAHAMAS - While many people venture to Las Vegas to lose themselves — in that boozy adult carnival of plushly polished clubs and gluttonously glam buffets, roulette spins and sin — it was in that glitzy strip of Nevada desert that Shania Twain perhaps found herself.
After all, it was just over 10 months ago that Twain roared back onto the Sin City stage after an eight-year absence from performing, perched atop a glistening motorcycle in a skin-tight sequined catsuit. Soon, she found that her Vegas showcase was an equally snug fit.
Plagued by tabloid-fodder romantic despair and a career-imperilling vocal issue, Twain says she felt immediately comfortable belting her diamond-certified arena-country hits in front of crowds again.
And after wrapping her first run of Vegas dates on June 1, Twain didn’t want to stop. So she spent her summer writing songs that could form the basis of her first album since 2002’s Up! — and, she says, finally chart a new course for her record-breaking career.
“I’m in love with the experience of writing again,” Twain told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview from Bahamas, being characteristically careful with her words.
With Twain set to reclaim her spot on the Strip with her next run at Caesars Palace’s regal Colosseum running from Tuesday to Dec. 14 (with a break in mid-November), it might be awhile until fans get to hear Twain trilling her new tunes. But the very existence of new music at all is noteworthy after a decade-plus span of creative inertia.
That musical standstill is indivisible from the details of Twain’s oft-reported romantic entanglements. To recap: it was with former husband and production wizard Robert (Mutt) Lange that Twain scaled the peaks of a singular musical career, which included two double-diamond albums in Canada (1997’s Come On Over and 2002’s Up!) and the diamond-selling 1995 breakthrough The Woman in Me. Come On Over is still the bestselling studio album by a female act and bestselling country album of all time.
In 2008, their marriage disintegrated after Lange reportedly began a relationship with Twain’s best friend. Twain said in the aftermath that the split had left her so devastated she was temporarily unable to sing, an affliction she overcame in time for her successful Vegas launch. But creating new music was another lofty challenge, given how crucial Lange had previously been to the process.
The past few years have been marked by a gradual shift toward selective openness for the notoriously private Twain. In 2011, she acquiesced to having cameras trace her blooming romance with new husband Frederic Thiebaud for the cheery OWN reality show Why Not? With Shania Twain. Near-simultaneously, she released From This Moment On, a rather unflinching autobiography that documented her difficult life, from her trauma-plagued upbringing in Timmins, Ont., to the romantic breakdown that rocked her in recent years.
Twain, now 48, pledges her new music will also be revealing in a way that her ubiquitous hits of the past weren’t.
“They’re very personal, (and) I think probably a little bit more personal than ever before,” said Twain, who splits her time between Switzerland and Bahamas when she’s not in Vegas.
“I mean, I’m just trying to express myself more emotionally than maybe ever before in my music. I haven’t been thinking commercially very much about the market, or the audience or anything like that,” she adds, chuckling softly.
Revisiting the songwriting process has Twain mulling what made her music successful in the first place — fusing slickly catchy country-pop with the swelling choruses of arena rock and, as her career went on, increasing elements of adult contemporary pop.
“I think I’m going to be surprised myself,” she said.
Video Credit: YouTube
Less surprising, perhaps, will be her Vegas reprise. After an arduous preparation process and a launch that merited positive if less than glowing reviews — the New York Times called the production “rotely dazzling” while the Las Vegas Review-Journal more enthusiastically chirped it was “everything it can and should be for a Shania Twain comeback vehicle” — Twain feels she finally has the enormous production positioned just where she wants it.
No small feat, given that the 100-minute show — titled Shania: Still the One — features no shortage of tricky stagework.
Beyond the dazzling show-opening motorbike stunt, Still the One also finds Twain trotting about the stage both on a black stallion and another snow-white horse, welcoming audience members up to a cosy onstage campfire and interacting with a series of eye-candy sets, including a Wild West saloon and a That Don’t Impress Me Much layout that includes two huge metal pipes churning out smoke.
Another crucial cog in that slick machine is, in fact, Twain’s sister Carrie-Ann, who joins the country star nightly for a duet and provides a “continuing support” to Twain that is “tremendous and something (she’s) never had.”
The Colosseum was designed for Celine Dion, but one wouldn’t know it venturing in for Twain’s production. Outside the 4,298-seat venue, there’s a gift shop hawking an imaginative array of Twain-branded baubles, including replica bowler hats, T-shirts depicting silvery studded horses, moisturizing body lotions, pint glasses and pink wicker cowboy hats.
During her intense preparations for the show, she said she only ventured outside about once a week at the behest of her husband, who felt she should “see the sun.”
Now? She finally feels at home in the glittering-and-gritty tourist capital, spending her time “shopping, enjoying the restaurants, enjoying the landscape away from the Strip, playing tennis, and just really living a fairly normal life to be honest.”
And the singer who once seemed almost hermetic in the face of her worldwide fame says she does get recognized while out and about, but not overwhelmed.
“I stay low profile. I blend in. And I think when you try to blend in, you succeed most of the time and that you feel that normalcy. That’s how I go about it.”
Video Credit: YouTube
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