Long before Taylor Swift started mixing up a cocktail of country and pop music, there was Shania Twain. The Queen of Country Pop, as she is known, is also the highest selling female artist of all time. The Canadian’s groundbreaking approach to twang can be empowering, anthemic and/ or cheesy, and it was a world beater in the 90s.
The fact she hasn’t played Australia in almost 20 years wasn’t lost on a packed Perth Arena, either. The crowd turned up in droves, with plenty learning the hard way that resales on Viagogo are a no-no, making getting in a chore as they queued up and wondered why the bar codes on their tickets had already been used. Buyer beware, folks.
Those who got through the queues and scanners early enough saw charismatic Swiss up and comer Bastian Baker, who mixed originals such as Stay alongside a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah to crowd pleasing effect. He didn’t offer anything to suggest the Swiss will be better known for their folk-pop than their tennis anytime soon, but he won over the masses with little more than a guitar, and was back later for the victory lap duetting on a couple of Twain’s lesser known hits.
The thing about these North American country rock megastars is they don’t skimp on the production. Comparable artists like Dixie Chicks and Tay Tay have both brought mind blowing visual spectaculars in recent times and Shania Twain certainly didn’t let us down in that department.
From the moment she emerged from the back of the stalls and made her way through the crowd to the stage, to the inspired stage set up with huge coloured blocks moving through the air (often with Twain or various band members atop them on high) it was a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. There was an artfully projected dancer, a kiss cam, a huge leopard print screen behind which the band spent much of the opening 30 minutes, and some lavish costume changes to boot.
Opener Life’s About to Get Good fell a little flat after the grand entrance but when the band emerged from behind the blocks and fiddle lit up Come On Over‘s title track, and then Up to follow, things were off to a good start.
Now, there might have been a bit of lip syncing going on, along with far too much backing track to suspend any disbelief that her four-piece band and two backing vocalists were making all that sound, but it was a pop concert and sadly that’s par for the course these days.
What was harder to swallow were Twain’s cliched ‘inspirational’ speeches, which were anything but. We’ll forgive her on that front though because the 53 year old has been through the wringer in the past decade or so following the breakdown of her high profile marriage (former husband and producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange went off with her bestie) and battles with Lyme disease (check out acclaimed Kathleen Hanna doco The Punk Singer to see the sort of detrimental effects that can have on a person).
So in many ways it was just nice to see Twain back on stage, even if her crowd interactions came across awkwardly, and it didn’t always feel like she was loving it as much as she professed to. While much of the show was choreographed to within an inch of its life, it was the moments she kicked up her heals and rocked out to her best loved songs that she connected most on Friday night.
While familiar rockers like That Don’t Impress Me Much and I’m Gonna Getcha Good! made up the majority of the highlights, hit ballad You’re Still the One was certainly a standout. The ‘acoustic B-stage’ excursions most stadium acts feel obliged to include these days are generally a let down, but Twain did it well with a revolving mini-stage back near the sound desk as the band played along and phones lit up the arena. An ultimate wedding vowel renewel song, it had couples swaying in their seats.
As expected, the night peaked on monster crossover hits (If You’re Not in It for Love) I’m Outta Here! and Man! I Feel Like a Woman!, the latter in particular getting the crowd up, up, up to their feet. A feel good end to a feel good night, what Twain lacks in charisma and as a natural performer she makes up for in honesty and openness, and for fans who thought they may never see her again, it was a memorable occasion.
Photos by Mia Campbell-Foulkes