Photos by Andrew Hartl
Shania brings her first studio album in 15 years to Toronto: with a healthy dose of nostalgia, stage craft and a pitch perfect performance.
When I was about ten years old, my mom had Come on Over on cassette. Shania’s been with me since then – no matter how much me and my friends rolled our eyes, we still ended up belting out Still The One right after. I am genuinely excited to experience this corner of Canadiana live. On with the show!
The set opens with the drum beat from We Will Rock You and choruses of Queen can be heard sprinkled throughout the crowd. As the drummer pumps everyone up from the B stage at the back of the arena, the spotlight shines on a glittering Stetson up in the 100 seating…Shania has arrived! Rarely have I heard such joy and adoration from a crowd – it’s deafening. And Shania takes it all in stride. Shania takes a circuitous route through the floor seating to the stage, passing a man whose face clearly shows the touch of a country angel has been freshly bestowed on him and he can’t believe his luck. She has the crowd immediately on their feet and eating out of her hand.
The stage is adorned with five 15 foot cube screens that shift up and down during the set – and are accompanied by more costumes, dancers and props than you can shake a cowboy boot at – including life sized cowboys made of springs, confetti and ribbon canons, lasers… and what I can only describe as silver balloon trees as Shania is raised up on one of her giant cubes.
The crowd let out a roar as the fiddles herald Don’t Be Stupid and we’re treated to some country dancing from five backing dancers. That Don’t Impress Me Much brings out all the leopard – a cacophony of spots that’s as loud as the music. It’s glorious. Shania’s shining on the screens like a country angel and vanishes through the floor as the song reaches it’s crescendo. What followed was a drum solo which weirdly morphed into a kiss cam while Shania got ready for her next amazing feat. It’s great to see a good mix of male and female performers on stage with Shania and the drummer is my favourite. She’s going hell for leather on the skins and is later raised into the rafters of the building because there’s no space for her on stage.
Drifting over the arena on a guitar case, Shania has the crowd wave their phones in the air and treats us to Still The One. It’s such a treat to be there witnessing all of this wholesome, chart topping joy. As Shania makes her way from the B stage she floated down onto, she’s chaperoned by three Maritimer fans in Cowboy Hats and Jean Shorts, at her beck and call is a fun detour – except for their tiresome desire to flex and take endless selfies.
Prior to a medley of classic Shania videos on the huge projector screen (a great way to cram in the hits), Shania dons a top hat and full length coat, teasing the crowd with her biggest hit, but saving it until the end. She closes the main set with my personal favourite (If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here! where every dancer has been given a drum and the lights snap off at the last beat – and prompt a deafening cheer.
The encore begins with the familiar guitar strains of Man! I Feel Like A Woman and closes with Rock This Country! and a blast of confetti and cheers.
The show more than lived up to that hype and expectation – I only wish I could have brought my mam.