Even after 11-year stage absence, Twain still flawless

Winnipeg Free Press
By Erin Lebar
June 15, 2015

Concert review

Shania Twain

June 15, MTS Centre

Attendance: 12,000

4 stars

It hardly seems possible that Shania Twain hasnít been on tour for more than eleven years and hasnít released a new album since 2002ís Up! She is one of those faces and voices that just seems omnipresent regardless of how long sheís been out of the limelight.

The last few years have been busy for Twain, though, as she just wrapped up a two-year residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in December, is almost done a new album thatís expected to be out in October and has just started the first of her two-leg North American Rock This Country tour that consists of 67 performances in less than five months.

Twain has said sheís ready to "hang up her hat" in regards to touring, and that Rock This Country will be her last. If that is indeed the case, she is going out with a bang.

Perhaps in homage to that recent stay in Vegas, an impressive array of lights, lasers and fire were aplenty right from the get go. Opening the night with the tour namesake Rock This Country, Twain, clad in a sparkly red dress and fringed leather jacket, rose out of the ground on a glowing column. Not two minutes into the song, the literal fireworks had already started.

From there, Twain launched into the classic Honey Iím Home, complete with more fireworks and a sold-out crowd of die-hard fans singing along to every word.

Twain looks and sounds just as you would expect her to ó near flawless. Sheís an absolutely stunning presence on stage and her vocals were always on point. In a 19-song set, she barely broke a sweat.

Thereís a certain expectation for someone who has being doing this as long as Twain has, and she has certainly surpassed it. She has kept her down-home Canadian charm, thanking the fans multiple times for sticking with her for the long haul, and they in turn thanked her with an almost tangible volume of cheers.

As the opening lines of Donít Be Stupid, You Know I Love You sang out, the shrieks of pure joy and inevitable foot stomping shook the room. And things only got louder from there, as the most classic-Shania of all classic-Shania songs, Any Man of Mine, brought the entire crowd to their feet.

Caddied around in a glass cube-like platform, the queen of Canadian country made her way around the floor of the arena shaking hands and kissing babies (OK, maybe not that last thing), before arriving back on the main stage to do her first costume change of the night.

Returning to a stage with flames bursting from the ground, Twain began a four-song spree of some of her most popular hits including Iím Gonna Getcha Good, Come On Over, Party for Two and Up!, during which she was literally raised up on a saddle-esque seat as multi-coloured lasers sliced through the room. This ainít her first rodeo óTwain knows how to do arena tours right.

A definite highlight of the night was a three-song acoustic set about midway through the set. She grabbed her guitar and serenaded the enthralled audience with Today is Your Day, No One Needs to Know and Youíre Still the One. While her upbeat hits are all well and good, itís the stripped-down acoustic songs that really showcase her vocal prowess. Her delicate country twang, the intricacies of her runs, the power of her upper range ó itís all wonderful.

To close out the night, Twain indulged in a one-song encore of Man, I Feel Like a Woman, because let's be serious, there really isn't the option to not sing that song. As the belts of "Oh oh oh" rang loud and clear, it's obvious this live experience is bittersweet for fans as they help Twain say goodbye to her touring career. But for those who arenít ready to let go quite yet, she makes another stop in Winnipeg during the second leg of her Rock This Country tour on Sept. 20.

Opener Wes Mack is the second guitar-wielding red-headed man to take the MTS Centre stage in less than a week, but as my concert companion noted, Mack is "no Ed Sheeran." Itís his first tour of this size (which is understandable considering he has only just released his first four-song EP) and his inexperience in an arena setting showed almost instantly. His voice consistently struggled in the lower registers of his set full of pop-country tunes, each song falling a little flat. Mack has a decent amount of stage presence, and is personable to be sure, but that isnít enough to make a memorable performance.