Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 | 6 p.m.
Country pop queen and five-time Grammy Award winner Shania Twain admits that even after 17 years of recording and performing, she’s still nervous every night she steps onstage. “I will probably always get butterflies. I would forget where I was sometimes, just out of panic. I am sure I will have that as well here in Las Vegas. Fortunately, it dissipates once I get out there,” said the Canadian superstar, who is one of the bestselling female artists in music history.
In one of her first interviews since arriving here last week, Shania talked with me Sunday at length about her new Caesars Palace show and its horses, her new gowns and how she’s only here because of her younger sister Carrie Ann, who will be one of her three backup singers in the new Colosseum show premiering Dec 1.
We’ll have all that in the second part of our interview Tuesday, but today our talk focuses on how she’s going to live in Vegas -- and last week’s incredible arrival on horseback on the Strip. Shania cleared up a misunderstanding that the horse she rode on was not El Alcazar. That’s her white horse that appears in all her show photos and in the Caesars Palace hotel commercial.
“He’ll be onstage with me,” she said. “We’ll also have onstage the horse I rode on the Strip for the arrival, Molesso. I don’t know why everybody got them confused. He’s the black horse and Alacazar is the white Spanish horse you see me with.”
It’s the point at which we began chatting.
Robin Leach: You sure know how to make an entrance!
Shania Twain: Well, you know I love to ride horses, so that was a fun thing to do.
R.L.: What is it about you and horses?
S.T.: Horses calm me. I love being around them. They smell great, they are beautiful to look at, they are loving, demanding, temperamental, and they settle you. The other day riding down the Strip on that horse, that was the first time I had ridden on that horse, so I don’t know that horse, which is a dangerous thing to do. It is not something that I would do every day.
When we got to the red carpet, I thought this horse may not go on the red carpet, he may decide, “No, I’m not going on the red carpet.” Horses don’t like change, for example, of going from concrete to whatever, the sound change, hard lines or anything like that. So, I’m thinking all right, I’ve got to stay completely calm and completely relaxed, no matter what.
If I am going to stay safe on this horse, because I don’t know what he is going to do, but at the same time, I have to act like everything is OK and that I am not thinking too much. So, horses really get you to stop, think and reflect. It is good for me, and you have no choice but to really just keep your cool. It is hard to do that when you are excited, because I was very excited to see everybody, and I had to keep it cool because of the horse.
R.L.: I thought the horse was -- to put it politely -- pretty frisky following 40 lady horses. Some carrying foals, but all female, and he was definitely “interested” in all of them!
S.T.: This is why he probably was more animated than usual; he wanted to just be with the pack, of course. I thought, OK, I am just going to go with the flow. I have ridden horses for many years, but when it is a horse you don’t know, you don’t really know what they are going to do so; there was an element of that. I guess that is what I love about them. I love being around them for that reason. They just demand your focus and concentration, and it is good for me. It is good therapy for anybody.
R.L.: Are you going to ride on a regular basis while you are in Las Vegas?
S.T.: Oh, yes. I hope so. In fact, when I was here, just visiting, earlier on this year even before we started rehearsals, I saw a couple of mounted police riding down the Strip, with the traffic, with the cars and everything, and I thought I’d love to do that sometime. I wonder if I could organize that? Just to go on their police horseback duties -- and at that time we hadn’t planned our arrival ride down the Strip.
R.L.: I love the idea of you being policewoman Twain for a shift!
S.T.: We should have gone down Twain Avenue, but it was all good, it was really fun. I have to ride there and get a photo taken under the street sign.
R.L.: Las Vegas has really opened its heart to you and welcomes you. We know that you live in Switzerland, the Bahamas and have a tiny log cabin hidden away in some mystery forest in Canada, but now you are calling Las Vegas home for two years, maybe longer. Does it feel like home yet?
S.T.: Definitely. It really does. I am surprised, to be honest. My producers AEG do such a good job, and Caesars Palace, they are just all so good at this. I thank Celine [Dion]; I honestly do because she has been here for so long. I think everybody has learned how to make the scenario work through the experience of Celine. And any artist who comes here. I am just totally happy here. They have just done a great job of making me feel at home, and I totally do feel it already. I’m going to truly miss it when I take a little break between our shows.
R.L.: Are you going to get involved in the Las Vegas community over the next two years? And the outdoors?
S.T.: Well, I sure hope so. Once the show is underway, and it’s not day and night as it is now, I am definitely ready to get out and just enjoy life around here, for sure. Go hiking, golfing, going out to the canyons. I think that would be wonderful. I actually miss getting out and doing that stuff. My schedule just doesn’t allow it right now, but … I will be out playing tennis. You’ll see me just getting out.
I would love to do some charity work, actually. I look forward to doing that. We have already been out to visit Andre Agassi’s school that he put together. We are well aware of that, so we plan on going there and doing some things out there with them. I know about Keep Memory Alive and its Cleveland Clinic Center for Brain Health. I look forward to hearing more about it.
R.L.: Shania, go back in time for a moment when Lionel Richie came to the Bahamas and talked you into performing again after such a long absence when you couldn’t sing. Now you are actually going to be on the stage at Caesars. You’ve got the lion’s den test shows coming up next week, and then the world premiere a week from Saturday. Are you over the nerves? Are you 100 percent back to normal? Do you still get butterflies?
S.T.: I will probably always get butterflies. So many nights, I would start my concerts with “Are you ready, Chicago? Are you ready, Denver?” before I walked out, and I would forget where I was sometimes, just out of panic. It’s a last-minute rush that comes over you, and of course you know where you are all that day, but that moment comes right at the last minute. I did that even when I was doing this regularly with the early tours, so I am sure I will have that as well here in Las Vegas. Fortunately, it just dissipates once I get out there.
R.L.: You are still in contact with Lionel? Has he wished you well for Caesars Palace? Is he coming to see you?
S.T.: I hope he does come. We have to talk about that. He is such a great supporter. He is just super; he really encouraged me. He was a great coach when I really didn’t think I could, when I was not ready to sing anywhere. Forget make a record. I was just like, “Oh, no, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.”
R.L.: But you are over all of those doubts now, completely, right?
S.T.: Oh yeah, I have recorded with David Foster, and he was also really great. He was like you can do this, and then Lionel Richie, you can do this. Gladys Knight said the same thing. Everyone has just been really supportive. I feel like I have to walk my own walk; you have to go through the process.
Just being out on the stage now is familiar. I already feel very at home on the Colosseum stage. None of that feels foreign at all. I had to bring myself to a point where I was back on the stage again and not just in the studio, so that has been my own journey. Nobody can encourage you; you just have to do it, physically just get out there and do it. So, that is what we are doing.
I think what will be new will be the reunion of seeing the fans again. That will be what I haven’t experienced in a long time. That will probably create a lot of adrenaline.
On Tuesday, Shania reveals secrets of the show: why her sister gets credit for her agreeing to do the residency; which horses will be in it; the glorious gowns she’ll wear; and the moments she knows she’ll cry at every night.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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Transport yourself to the opulent and excessive Roman Empire at Caesars Palace. But the ever-changing Caesars Palace is far from ancient. The hotel and casino is constantly raising the bar for what visitors can expect in a Vegas resort experience.
Caesars Palace features 3,348 rooms and suites in five towers, including the new luxury boutique Nobu Hotel and Restaurant, which opened Feb. 4, 2013, in the totally remodeled Centurian Tower. Caesars features 129,000 square feet of gaming space, including the Strip’s largest poker room and a 250-seat sports book. Other amenities include about two dozen restaurants, a four-level shopping mall, four pools, a spa, Pure and Poetry nightclubs and Pussycat Dolls.
Dining options include restaurants from world-renown chefs Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay and, on Feb. 4, 2013, Nobu Matsuhisa.
You never know what characters you’ll run into at Caesars with regular performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Bette Midler, Elton John and maybe even the emperor himself.