Twain still reigns
Queen of Country Pop delivers royally good show
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When you’re the Queen of Country Pop, a regal entrance befitting a monarch is required.
That’s what Shania Twain received Sunday night at Canada Life Centre, her first concert in Winnipeg since 2018, when she also performed on Mother’s Day.
Instead of appearing on the large stage at one end of the hockey arena, Twain was revealed among the audience members on the floor of the venue, standing on a mini-stage about two metres long.
Her escorts pushed her carriage between two sections while she sang Waking Up Dreaming, giving lucky fans in the middle of the floor seats an enviable glimpse of the Timmins, Ont.-born performer.
The number was of one of several songs she performed from her latest album, Queen of Me, before she was eventually wheeled to the stage, where she sang Up! from a riser directly in front of a large video screen that showed cowboy hat-shaped flying saucers spinning through the cosmos.
It was the latest in a long list of surprises Twain has provided her fans and the music industry since her sophomore album, The Woman in Me, made her a country sensation in 1995 and her followup, Come on Over, made her a crossover superstar in 1997.
One of the early highlights Sunday was You’re Still the One, which Twain began alone with an acoustic guitar before the four-piece band and two energetic dancers, and most notably the sold-out crowd, joined in to create a different spin for the lush 1997 hit.
Twain’s sex appeal was part of an irresistible musical package in the 1990s when she broke through with Any Man of Mine and Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?, two hits that followed Sunday, and she continues to exude it in 2023 at 57 years old.
An orange-coloured leotard, glittery necklaces, burgundy robe and sneakers showed Twain defies the ravages of time and illnesses, including Lyme disease, which she revealed in a recent Netflix documentary almost robbed her of her voice.
Twain and her voice were at their best in the romantic From this Moment On, and so was the stage setup, which, besides the rear screen, included screen video projections of roses on the stage itself.
Twain ended her main set with Queen of Me, and while it’s an inspiring song of self-empowerment, it’s a lower-key tune when compared with her past anthems, such as That Don’t Impress Me Much and Man! I Feel Like a Woman, which she performed in the encore.
The final two are a big part of Twain’s musical legacy, showing off her less serious and more effective side.
She wore her famous leopard-print gown for That Don’t Impress Me Much, matching the song’s famously funny and sexy video, and took a couple of pieces of it off for Man! I Feel Like a Woman, which the largely female crowd sang along with in a finale fit for a queen.
Twain returns to the Canada Life Centre Nov. 7 for those who missed Sunday night, or more likely those looking for more Shania.
Lindsay Ell, a Nashville-based Calgarian and host of Canada’s Got Talent, opened the show with a power-chord-laden set of country-pop that showed why Guess Who co-founder Randy Bachman became her mentor and produced her debut record in 2006, when Ell was 15.
Ell, like Bachman, can play a mean guitar. While many country artists, including Twain, have hired guns perform guitar solos when they go on tour, Ell, who is now 34, carries the load herself, and rightfully so.
She wailed on a white Fender Stratocaster for tight solos on her openers Right on Time and her latest single, Sweet Spot. She even bent over backwards for an extended six-string aria on the weeper I Don’t Love You.
She can also pick an acoustic, which she did when she paid tribute to Bachman, the former Winnipegger, singing the first verse of Takin’ Care of Business — the early crowd turned it into a sing-along, naturally — and her own number, the breakup ballad Good on You.
Ell mentioned prior to her closer, Criminal, that she remembered going to see Twain in concert as a youngster, and she set a impressive tone with her 30-minute set for Twain’s throng of devotees, young and old, Sunday night.
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Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.
Updated on Monday, May 15, 2023 10:17 AM CDT: Adds more images