Shania Twain focusing on shows, recording new album

Shania Twain may look back, but she doesn’t look down.

At least not when she’s on an airborne motorcycle, making the grandest of entries by descending about 40 feet to the stage of the Colosseum at Caesars Palace.

“I get this incredible view of the audience when I’m coming in,” she says. “I always feel really wonderful inside. I always smile inside and out. It just feels really good.

“I sort of feel like I’m standing on the tip of the Titanic. It’s an epic moment for me for some reason.”

However, “I have to say I don’t look down,” she adds. “I look at the audience, I focus on them, but I don’t look down beneath me. You could get a little freaked out, I suppose.”

Otherwise, there is considerably less to freak out about, compared with this time last year.

Twain’s “Still the One” show marks its first anniversary this weekend. It debuted after nearly a year of advance promotion and ticket sales, and 10 long, troubled years after the Canadian star’s last album and full-blown tour.

“I’m just enjoying the relaxation of being over that period of intensity,” the 48-year-old said last month. “I guess I would say just eating the cake now. Enjoying all of the hard work more than anything.”

The show includes set changes, backup dancers and live horses, all made possible by 60 repetitions on one stage each year.

“I’ve never done anything stationary like that as a concert artist,” she says. “It’s new for me. The novelty is still there for me. It is still so new. … There’s a lot of spontaneity in the show, so I haven’t fallen into a routine of boredom at all with it.”

At 4,300 seats, the Colosseum is hardly a little coffee house. But Twain performed almost entirely in sports arenas once 1997’s “Come on Over” album sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, becoming the biggest-selling studio album by a female artist.

So you can understand if she found the Colosseum kind of cozy, and was “curious about how the big arena stadium-sounding music like ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman!’ or any of those dynamic, heavy drum and guitar songs would sound in a theater.”

Fear not, the song comes off as Vegas-humongous as the giant “SHANIA” sign that drops down from the rafters.

But, she points out, a segment welcoming select fans to the stage to sing around a faux campfire goes the other musical direction, stripping big hits “down to acoustic instruments, and it works, too,” she says.

“I think the versatility is there as long as you’re clever enough creatively to adapt whatever it is you’re doing. I think this show proves that for me, which is good. It’s been a good learning curve for me.”

The next step is a new album, the real test to see if there is forward motion for the singer in a country music world where Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott are at least 20 years younger.

“I don’t want to rush myself, but I am feeling a healthy pressure,” she says. “Not from anyone, but from myself, just because I know there’s no reason not to.”

She had yet to name a producer at the time of this conversation, but did have enough songs “to get into the studio.”

“Songs are always what they are, and then you get into the studio and they evolve again from that point.”

Hiring a producer is a new experience for Twain, whose ’90s success was guided by her ex-husband, record producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange.

Their marriage blew up with a headline-making divorce. Twain lost her singing voice for a time with a stress-related vocal condition before the final soap-opera twist: She ended up marrying Frederic Thiebaud, the other wounded party, the husband of the friend Lange was said to have left Twain for.

Will this very complicated story find its way into the songwriting for the next album? As I reminded the singer, fans will try to read deep meaning into any new songs regardless, and she doesn’t seem to have a problem with that.

“I think I’d want to be quite personal with it,” she says.

“I will want to be meaningful with whatever it is I wrote about, and personal about it, and I always have been, anyway. But I think turning a bad situation into something positive is just my goal in life in general and I think that will reflect on the album.”

“I wouldn’t want to be whimsical lyrically,” she adds. “Even if I do touch on difficult things, it’s always served me better to remain optimistic, because music is something you have to listen to forever. Once you do it, it’s permanent. So I’ll probably stay on the optimistic side of things, but I’m not afraid of getting personal at all.”

Thiebaud helps with the Shania Kids Can Foundation and was on hand the October day Twain visited Tom Williams Elementary in North Las Vegas to dedicate a space where the foundation will help at-risk youngsters.

She says her family, including her 12-year-old son, Eja, was quick to explore Las Vegas life beyond the Strip.

They’ve been hiking, and zip-lining at Bootleg Canyon. And somewhere in the valley, a neighborhood was trick-or-treated by the family on Halloween of last year. “We all dressed up, and blended in, and had a great time,” she says.

“We take advantage of the variety that’s there and don’t isolate ourselves in just the entertainment world. We get out and enjoy the contrast that it offers and make the most of it. To be honest, the time goes by very quickly when we’re there.”

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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