When Shania Twain kicked off her Manchester show from a spot hidden deep in the AO Arena crowd, so began a show full of surprises. There was the fan-designed outfit, a pink rhinestone two-piece sent to her by a local young designer. There was an on-stage proposal – which caught even Shania herself off guard. And there was the original outfit from the 1997 Man I Feel Like A Woman video, a structured black bustier which looked just as good as it did over two decades ago. “It’s in better shape than I am, because it’s been preserved in a museum for 26 years,” joked Shania, who recently celebrated her third UK number one album with Queen of Me.
It was around 30 seconds into the first song (Waking Up Dreaming) that I Googled ‘how old is Shania Twain’. And, fact fans, she is 58. Fifty eight. Fifty eight and still selling out arena tours. Fifty eight and with more energy than I have, standing still in the crowd. Shania Twain is endlessly impressive.
Starting her set with Up!, Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You) and earworm I’m Gonna Getcha Good! it was clear that the singer came to have a good time.
Indeed Shania’s 20-song-strong setlist was campy, quirky and gave the fans exactly what they wanted – the hits.
And they were all in there – You’re Still The One, From This Moment On and Forever And For Always came one by one like musical wrecking balls, to the delight of the cowboy-hat-donned, leopard-print-clad crowd. Inhale/Exhale Air, her new release, sung with upcoming artist Breland, was a highlight too.
No matter the song, Shania’s voice was the star – powerful and expansive, with her trademark country twang.
Yet behind the music, the staging was intriguing. Basic, almost budget, it was sparse, with just some steps and a large screen at the back onto which bad graphics – to the theme of cowboys in space – were played. Two dancers, who doubled as backing singers, worked hard for their money, filling the interludes with back flips and high kicks in a slightly chaotic fashion.
My pet hate is audience participation, of which there was a lot. My view is that I want to hear the artist sing, not myself, who can barely hold a note. But there was something endearing about the way Shania played with the 21,000-strong Manchester crowd, so I’ll forgive her this once.
As the encore rolled around, a smattering of leopard print revealed what was coming. And, to the surprise of absolutely no-one, That Don’t Impress Me Much and Man I Feel Like A Woman were the songs of the night. As we left, the choruses were still being sung in the streets.
Campy, colourful and confident – with a smattering of chaos thrown in – our night with Shania was a right old knees up – and a whole lot of fun.