Had you avoided Social Media and the Scotiabank Centre last night, you would have been unaware of the onslaught of the “Let’s Go Girl!” hashtag/battle cry from the legion of Shania Twain fanatics heading to the show. The last time the now-legendary country singer was in town, she was playing the supporting role for Ricky Van Shelton, and promoting her self-titled debut album. Since that initial visit to Halifax, Shania has become a worldwide superstar with immediate name recognition.
For anyone arriving at the venue prior to the doors opening, it was apparent that this was one of the most hotly anticipated shows of the year (possibly even the decade). Lines of eager fans snaked around the building at every gate, with the prerequisite (and cliched) uniform of cowboy boots, cowboy hats, plaid shirts and cut-off jean shorts not lacking in supply. Even an hour before showtime, the start time was pushed back to allow most folks to stream in and find their seats.
People continued to stream in from the sweltering sidewalks for the duration of the opening act Robyn Ottolini’s set. The Uxbridge native was in the same spot Shania was 30 years ago, but in Ottolini’s case, she has grown a strong following from her 4 EPs that have been released over the past four years. Considering this was her first arena show, had she not revealed this fact, the attendees wouldn’t have been any the wiser. Not only did we get to hear “F-150”, but Ottolini took us through a tour of her influences featuring “The Climb”, “Timber”, “Dancing Queen”, “Bad Reputation” and a killer take on Eminem’s “Rap God”. It was a great opening set that primed the crowd for Shania’s impending arrival.
Just before the lights went down, you could see a couple of imposing stagehands wheeling a cart draped in a black curtain onto the arena floor. Then it was time for the show to begin, and the lights dropped. You could hear the anticipatory whispers around the room, which quickly turned to cheers and applause when Shania emerged from the cart bathed in the spotlight. There was no jaunt to the stage to start the show, seated comfortably, the country music legend opened up the show with “Waking Up Dreaming” which she continued to perform as her escorts slowly wheeled her along centre ice.
For as maligned as some of Shania’s earlier tour dates have been, there were no signs of that here in Halifax. This was a consummate professional who has conquered the world and has little to prove to anyone. You could tell that after enduring the health scares, and a couple of lengthy hiatuses over her career, she is living her best life on her own terms, all the while having a blast being out on tour again.
This show, if anything, this is the evolution of Shania Twain. She appeared relaxed, bubbly and appreciative, and for an artist with a catalogue spanning 30 years, it was all highlighted here in Halifax. On this, her Queen of Me tour, she is showcasing that she is still every bit the singer from Windsor, Ontario that we know and love. Not only did she work on her newer material alongside her extensive list of fan favourites, but she also incorporated the presentation aspect from her LV residency.
One of those key carryovers from Las Vegas was the elaborate stage setup which was a feast for the eyes and could have easily overwhelmed a lesser performer, but it could not deter Shania’s star power. It was great to see the Nova Scotia love on screen or the neon Halifax titling. As the show went on, the stage became a character unto itself, at one point becoming the Twain Town Saloon, and later on when it came time to dive into the Shania discography for a medley of deep cuts, the stage became a working stereo system complete with song titles showing across the header of the stage, and the stage floor appeared to be a spinning CD.
This was the ultimate girl’s night out for many in attendance, in looking around the room you saw legions of ladies singing their hearts out to each and every of Shania’s tunes, while their male partners sat begrudgingly by in some cases. Needless to say, there were more than a few folks out for a good time, much to the chagrin of the security guards working the event. There were a couple of ladies drunkenly dancing in the aisle near my section and were chased away by security. Once they got some drinks, they chose to return. These ladies then carefully stumbled down the lower bowl steps and tried to sit inconspicuously out of security’s sight, before being spotted again only to stagger back up the stairs.
Aside from the overindulgers, this was a night where seats weren’t needed a great deal. From the moment Shania emerged in the crowd, the sold-out Scotiabank Centre was on its feet, ready to sing and dance their hearts out. It’s not often that you see the biggest barn in the province crammed to the literal rafters like it was on this Monday night. This show will be one that is talked about for years to come, from the music to the incredible presentation. After close to 2 hours on stage, Shania and her band left to await the growing adulation before returning to close the night out with her two biggest hits “That don’t impress me much!”, and “Man! I Feel like a Woman!”. It was a triumphant return after an extended Halifax hiatus.
The Stage Setup