Shania Twain still the one in Edmonton

Gig City
By Gene Kosowan
May 10, 2018

It's always a double bill of sorts whenever a Shania Twain show rolls into town – usually a toss-up between her lengthy tresses and telltale leopardskin wardrobe.

This time, it wasn’t just the eyes focusing on the still-svelte 52-year-old songstress. Ears were perked up to see how her reconstructed larynx could withstand the punishment of a 77-gig world tour slated to end in December.

Much to the relief of a near-sellout house at Edmonton’s Rogers Place on Wednesday night, her voice box, healed after a bout with dysphonia due to a Lyme disease bug, delivered big-time during what turned out to be a 19-song set plus an encore. It included the showstoppers Man, I Feel Like A Woman! and Rock This Country! - as well as six outfit changes. That said, while Twain tunes are hardly vocally challenging, if she did any lip-syncing during a set clocking in at roughly two hours she certainly fooled everyone.

With the percussive blast of Queen’s We Will Rock You, Twain emerged from the bleachers and headed for the stage, like a presidential walk-on preceding a State of the Union address. Wearing a Stetson and a dark sequined gown split up the left thigh to show off her fishnets, Twain got the ball rolling with her more pop-oriented offerings Life’s About To Get Good and Come On Over with nary a rasp.

While Twain’s normally been quite guarded over her privacy, given her seclusion in a castle in Switzerland, she’s never been afraid to hint at some of the pitfalls that comes with stoking the starmaker machinery. She only hinted at her previous relationship with ex-husband and studio Svengali Mutt Lange and didn’t mention her medical affliction. As for her recent backhanded support of Donald Trump, which may have endeared her more with her country audience, that lid was tightly shut.

Still, before launching into her third song, Up, what Twain would reveal were her proud Northern Ontario roots, before commenting, “Along the way up, things didn’t always go as planned.”

‘Nuff said.

Ditto with Poor Me, from her latest album Now, which she vaguely called “a song I wrote when I felt sorry for myself.”

It wasn’t all introspection, although much of what was played that night from her latest release, her first in 15 years, didn’t have the energy of her better-known works. Unfamiliar offerings like I’m Alright and Soldier gave the denim-clad fans a chance to fill up with more beer. Twain sang a song with her warm-up act Bastian Baker called Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed – which went over like an LGBTQ proposal at a UPC convention. No protests, just stunned silence from the primarily female audience (and a few Larry the Cable Guy clones) who came for Shania Twain’s hits – not some experimental reggae tune with bad classic rock licks for accenting.

When Twain switched gears to lead the throng to her cornball corral for a twangin’ trifecta of Any Man of Mine, Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under? and Honey I’m Home, the masses jumped up and pumped fists in the air in response. No devil-horn salutes in this bunch.

Perhaps trite makes right when it comes to evaluating the success Twain’s experienced, and the first of her two-nighter in Edmonton is testament to her songwriting savvy and audience engagement. She’s very likable. She also knows when to connect and is likely gauging how her new material is going over, which despite her willingness to experiment, don’t have the memorable hooks of previous works that vaulted her to the top in the ‘90s. To her credit, however, she can still deliver something well-crafted, such as her melodically-rich Still the One – easily the best song of the night.

If she still has it in her to juggle introspection, energy and catchiness, the ultimate double-bill will hopefully one day be Twain and her songwriting prowess.

She finishes her Edmonton stint Thursday night at Rogers Place.