Shania Twain review – barnstorming, thigh-slapping spectacular

Brash staging, old-school charisma and a bulletproof back catalogue power an energetic performance from the Canadian superstar

The Guardian
By Graeme Virtue
September 20, 2018

4 out of 5 stars

Her 2017 comeback album was titled Now, but Shania Twain is taking a moment to revisit the past. Thanks to large-scale technical wizardry, the Canadian superstar can channel-surf through promos from her 90s imperial phase, each sumptuous, golden-hour visual (a smorgasbord of beaches, stallions and covetable knitwear) projected on to a gigantic white leopard-print curtain. “I used to be able to do backflips in my videos,” she says, with mock regret. “So that’s fun to look back on.”

It is one of the quieter, funnier moments in this two-hour spectacular. The packed opening night of Twain’s first UK tour since 2004 is an impressively barnstorming, thigh-slapping, eye-searing revue that marries her bulletproof back catalogue with a cautious sprinkle of new material. In the 15-year break between album releases, Twain has overcome illness, endured the tabloids pecking over the breakdown of her marriage to producer Mutt Lange and witnessed Taylor Swift’s deft cover version of her country-pop crossover career.

Yet she also kept her hand in as a performer, notably with a long and successful Vegas residency, so Twain is hip to what a modern crowd expect from a big arena show. That means absurdly over-the-top staging, multiple costume changes into knockout outfits and carefully stage-managed moments of advice, reflection and personal connection. Basically, an energised, well-sequenced square dance through a pop canon so fully loaded that she can toss out That Don’t Impress Me Much – a strident, sonic tattoo burned into a billion brainpans – as an early highlight.

Even the pensive new song Poor Me, which deals with her ex-husband’s cheating, gets injected with unexpected grandeur: Twain performs alongside an interpretive dance hologram that sprouts into a 30ft giant. Everything is big, brash and an absolute smash, with Twain backed by a quartet of unflagging dancers plus a five-piece band who smoothly cycle through violins, squeezeboxes and guitars as required.

For all the visual razzmatazz – including some nifty sleight of hand during the upbeat Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You) that makes it look as if Twain’s backing troupe are performing a fleet-footed Riverdance on the surface of swimming pools – the 53-year-old star is never overshadowed, even by the enormous hologram. Twain radiates an old-school charisma that complements the maximalist staging, seeming relatable even as she sings from the top of a floating pyramid created by roving cubes.

Those cubes reorientate to transform the Hydro stage into a pristine but fairly atmospheric spit-and-sawdust roadhouse, with Twain switching to a full Westworld, black-leather cowboy outfit for an energetic line dance to Any Man of Mine and the hoedown showdown Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under? For the build-up to the relatively stripped-back You’re Still the One, Twain plucks some fans from the audience and artfully extracts heartwarming anecdotes before gamely posing for a selfie.

If there is a game, she is absolutely on top of it. Even a slight dip in energy toward the end – where her hunky Swiss support act Bastian Baker reappears for the seduction duet Party for Two – feels like a necessary breather before a triumphant Man! I Feel Like a Woman, its aggressive clapback synth hook the equivalent of plugging the crowd into the mains. Pointedly, there is no encore; Twain knows when her work is done.