Shania Twain, Auckland NZ, 2018

Ambient Light
By Sarah Kidd
December 19, 2018

Shania Twain
18th December 2018
Spark Arena, Auckland, New Zealand

Shania Twain performed her first ever New Zealand show last night, pulling out all the stops to ensure it was an evening that her fans would never forget.

As the infamous drum and guitar duet from Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ rang out through the darkened arena, thousands of excited faces turned to face the stage only to give themselves whiplash as from the back of the arena came the booming sounds of a bass drum being played by the stunning Elijah Wood. To the right a spotlight highlighted a cowboy hat wearing Shania Twain as she appeared from the shadows and made her way to the stage via a lengthy walk through the crowd; high fives and huge smiles paving her way.

Now that’s how you start a show.

Once on-stage Twain wasted no time, hitting the audience with a double combo that showcased both her latest album Now – her first in fifteen years – and her best-selling album of all time, Come On Over. Indeed, last night’s show was both a nostalgic trip into Twain’s back catalogue, as well as a vision of her future, which has to be said is looking very bright for an artist who back in 2004 retired from music thanks to contracting Lyme disease and losing her voice.

Watching her perform one of the most dazzling shows to grace the Spark Arena stage this year was like watching a phoenix rise from the ashes. Here was a woman who has taken all the darkness and despair in her life (abusive childhood, a publicly humiliating marriage breakdown and debilitating illness) and turned it into something that brings obvious joy not only to herself but to her admirers.

Often addressing the audience in between songs, there was an underlying emotion to Twain’s voice that at times threatened to bubble over, her love for New Zealand and its people not only clear but reciprocated in waves from those standing before her. Accompanied by both a four-piece backing vocal dance troupe as well as a band of magnificent multi-instrumentalists – guitarist Joshua Ray Gooch a definitive highlight – who faded in and out of set pieces that consisted of enormous illuminated cubes that moved through different formations throughout the evening ensured there was never a dull moment.

Twain herself – who had no less than seven costume changes – looked exquisite, both her trademark leopard print and skin-tight lace bodysuits making an appearance, and she rocked each and every one like she owned it. Telling her story through the art of song, tracks such as ‘Poor Me’ gave a glimpse into the deep whirlpool of inner turmoil that has plagued her life, while early crowd favourite ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’ showed her resilience, her band playing up the rock factor to the nth degree.

Of course, some of that boot-scootin country element that Twain made a name for herself with also made its way into the show; ‘Any Man of Mine’ and ‘Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under’ provoking serious feet shuffling in the isles. However, one of the biggest underlying messages of the evening was love; from the cutesy kiss-a-gram camera that rolled around the arena falling on unsuspecting couples during openly transgender Elijah Woods drum solo to Twain’s own personal message of “love and loyalty that lasts forever regardless of who it’s between” ringing true.

Returning to the back of the arena to perform ‘You’re Still The One’ on a small revolving stage, Twain invited a fan to join her in a moment of friendship and comical selfie taking; Marie from Papamoa it was revealed was attending the concert on her own in celebration of her fiftieth birthday. In a moment that not only brought a tear to the eye but summed up New Zealand as a country, the entire arena – without any provocation from Twain – broke out into a celebratory rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, Twain joining in at the end before hugging a tearful Marie.

The finale of the show had Twain move from sitting atop a piano with a glass of wine in her hand for ‘More Fun’ to taking side of stage while a video montage played across leopard print chiffon curtains. Remerging in a breath-taking floor length gown that she later dropped to reveal a jaw-dropping catsuit, Twain was joined on stage by her support act Bastian Baker for both ‘Party for Two’ and ‘Swingin with My Eyes Closed’, the duet between the two adding yet another dimension to an already outstanding show.

But all good things must come to an end, and Twain was determined to take it out on a high. As her band performed a mini rock opera entitled ‘Blue Storm’ atop the cubes that projected images of rolling thunderstorms across them – Cory Churko delivering a blazing guitar solo – the stage lights slowly changed to red as those familiar opening notes of ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman!’ saw the entire audience leap from the chairs. Dressed in black sequins, Twain strutted the stage for all she was worth; the crowd enthusiastically joining her on the chorus line.

Is Shania Twain still the one? Last night’s show proved unequivocally that the answer is yes.