Review: Shania Twain's best-ever Edmonton show delightfully in the Now

Edmonton Journal
By Fish Griwkowsky
May 10, 2018

Shania Twain’s latest album and tour are called Now, a name that couldn’t be more appropriate.

Mixing hypnotic with erotic and palatably patriotic, her cast of accompanying dancers and backup singers was as lively and international as David Byrne’s current touring ensemble. The spectacular moving-parts stage show was so state-of-the-art and mesmerizing it’s hard to even fathom this genre-leaping onetime Ontarian was technically ground zero of the planet-spanning thing we still somehow call country music — she’s so beyond that now.

In presence and with the addition of a handful of great new songs and multiple costume changes, the show was way more lively and visually compelling than her June 2015 diva-ish appearance at Gretzky’s rink, never mind that infamous shivering Grey Cup pop-up back in 2002. Now, indeed!

Nearly sold out at Rogers Place, Twain set lasted more than two hours, largely leaning into the 23 years of hits that made her the biggest-selling female country singer ever — but the new material, songs like the mournful Poor Me and even the Autotuned and gospelly opener Life’s About to Get Good — totally held their own, especially with masterful stage tricks like Twain dancing with her projected self on a huge curtain, before the footage became gigantic and showed off her thrashy modern dance moves.

Generally surrounded by perfectly-put-together dancers — none of them much taller than Twain’s 5’4” — she sang almost every old hit you can think of besides No One Needs to Know.

The zydeco-flavoured Come on Over was the first of the hyper-familiars, and she mounted the van-sized rising cubes flashing monochrome Tetris-y images for Up! —the first of the night’s exclamation-point anthems — as dancers carrying hip-mounted trees of silver balloons shook about. In no way is this a jab, but the night often had a Chris Gaines visual vibe, flipping through imaginary settings from honky tonks to neon beaches faraway in time

For Poor me, Twain explained, “I’m sharing it with you so I appreciate you listening — I wrote this song feeling sorry for myself.” Next in the 20-plus list, the fiddlers came out for Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You) as her moves-crew danced atop the five boxes bearing images of swimming pools. These shapes would then arrange themselves into a five-pip dice formation bearing a leopard face as That Don’t Impress Me Much dropped, not the last time the show felt like some kind of Euro techno event — accompanying Twain’s first outfit change from an evening gown into more of formal summer dress. Her costumes, sassy and alluring, were just amazing all night.

She never introduced her ensemble, but Let’s Kiss and Make Up featured the tremendous power of transgender drummer Elijah Wood (not the Hobbit), and Edmonton seemed particularly bad at the timing our kiss-cam smooches, though a lucky fan had one planted on him by Twain.

Another curtain dropped and the singer became a huge silhouette in a cowboy hat for her best outfit of the night, which included a biker jacket, a huge belt buckle and a revealing lightweight black gown.

This was also my personal favourite moment of the night as the loud and lecherous townies behind us all night commenting about Twain’s body like a stripper wailed along, “Any man of miiiiiine!” in a way that would likely embarrass them if they saw the footage the next morning.

Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under was next, Twain’s hunky dancers doing their best Cook County moves with slinky wire mannequins in front of a projected honky tonk with an oddly Devo vibe.

“When we come home from work at the end of the day,” Shania declared rather fairly of women, “we want something cold to drink, we want a foot rub and a neck rub.” This led to Honey, I’m Home, of course — complete with shifting apartments on the screens.

“A lot of people say to me, ‘Don’t you ever get bored of singing the same songs?’” Twain noted, saying her fans’ reactions kept her going. “You are my entertainment.”

This led to the only tense moment of the night as she interacted with people in the front row, the first being a guy from — gasp! — Calgary, moving on to a woman who seemed a bit unhinged and about to loose some conspiracy theory at the 52-year-old singer. Maybe she was just nervous.

The rather sophisticated I’m Alright was next, and Twain hovered above the crowd on a guitar-case swing for the Song soldier from the Thank You for Your Service soundtrack — pretty cool. She stayed in the air for You’re Still the One, and brought a selfie-shooting couple up on stage before More Fun.

A medley of old videos, then an enormous continuously-opening pink flower illustrated make-out song From This Moment On, and lasers spanned shot out at the rink’s social-strata layer cake during I’m Gonna Getcha Good! as Twain’s hair moved around in the wind like Prairie grass.

Opening singer Bastian Baker — sort of a folk rock cat from Switzerland along the lines of Spirit of the West — joined Twain for Party for Two and the new Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed, his elder now in a jaw-dropping blue spantsuit as now even the light boxes above the cubes started twisting and shifting. (If You’re Not in it for Love) I’m Outta Here! Took us to the encore, then everyone returned for Man! I Feel Like a Woman and Rock This Country! — Twain now in something not unlike Spider-Man’s ex Black Cat might fight Vulture in, with that eternal smile scientists have placed great value upon.

If you have the chance to go tonight for the second show — tickets still available — do so.

Over two hours of spectacle, this was the best I’ve ever seen Twain, even compared to the mid-’90s, and it’s just a delight to witness her confidence and skill underlining something a lot of us have known for a long time: she’s a total survivor.