You have to be quick to notice it, for no sooner have the lights dimmed when a spotlight lands on Shania Twain, who has somehow arrived at the upper reaches of the auditorium without causing a stir. Microphone in hand, and standing in a leopard skin covered trolley, she makes her way through the crowd, singing Waking Up Dreaming. It’s a surprise beginning to a show that is many things to many people: an array of self-empowerment and self-validation songs that shove male chauvinists out the door with a boot to the butt; a display of campness that runs all the way from pink-frilled boots to displays of Quiverdancing; rock guitars to the max mixed with furious bouts of barn dance fiddle playing.
As befits a songwriter that regularly uses exclamation marks at the end of their songs – see Up!, I’m Gonna Getcha Good!, Giddy Up!, Rock This Country! – and sometimes in the middle of them – the six shooter bang-bang of Man! I Feel Like a Woman! – there is much enthusiasm, but it’s all in good fun.
Is it a tad cheesy? It is, indeed, but this is high quality Camembert that never undermines Twain’s legacy of having established the country-to-pop mainstream crossover blueprint – she is, with some justification, a recognised influence on the early careers of Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves.
The high points of a show stacked with hit songs are many and most of these come from the hat-trick of albums Twain released between 1995-2002: The Woman in Me, Come on Over and Up!
One of her signature songs, the supreme power ballad You’re Still the One, is performed with just an acoustic guitar and is so rapturously received you wonder, fleetingly, insanely, would a stripped-down show in a smaller venue be just as valuable to the singer as it would the audience? Another time, perhaps, because arriving to a caterwaul of screams are Giddy Up! and Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under? (“a heartbreak cheating song,” says Twain, her fan base keenly aware she sings from experience).
Does everything work? Not always. The midpoint medley of songs, which includes Nah!, She’s Not Just a Pretty Face and When, doesn’t connect with the audience, which move in droves towards the toilets and bars. Perhaps a key element of the show is, depending on taste, its most touching or cringy: audience participation.
On three occasions, Twain engaged with her fan base on stage: eight-year-old Mia, from Cork (inevitably, cute), Frenchman Julian and his father and nameless couples gathered around faux candlelit tables as Twain posed with them for selfies. All of that fades in the background, however, when you are confronted with a show that primarily aims to entertain. Also, to Twain’s inestimable credit, there is no diva present on stage – when you already have star wattage, you don’t need extravagant costume changes.
Encores of That Don’t Impress me Much and Man! I Feel Like a Woman! bring the show to a convincing country-pop conclusion. If you’re looking for some level of performative introspection, perhaps you need to see The National but if you’re looking for the best fun to be had on a rainy night in Dublin, then Shania Twain is clearly your best bet.
Shania Twain plays 3Arena, Dublin, tonight, Wednesday, September 20th; ticketmaster.ie