I have this distinct memory of hanging out with my cousin in her rural southern Illinois farmhouse when I was younger. We would spend hours in her room playing with our American Girl dolls and listening to music. Although the tunes definitely changed over the years, for some reason, whenever I hear Shania Twain, I feel transported back to those summers in Alton, IL. That’s where my head was at as I walked into the Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday night to see the one and only Shania Twain. It was actually quite emotional for me. I haven’t talked to that particular cousin in years and haven’t seen her in over a decade. I was a ball of emotion but was ready to let it all go while witnessing the Goddess that is Shania live in action.
Before Shania took the stage, opening act Hailey Whitters had a chance on the stage, and girl, did she make it count. I instantly fell in love with Hailey’s innocence but also her attitude in her songs. Hailing from a smaller town than I did in Iowa (Shueyville, IA which is between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City), I felt like I could feel that Iowa spirit throughout her set. Hardworking and determined with a dash of sweetness and a pop of snark, I was hanging onto every word of her songs. Sure, stylistically Hailey has a very classic Dolly Parton- inspired country sound which isn’t quite my thing but the way she talked about getting out of her small town and having one too many drinks sometimes just really struck a chord with me.
Wearing a pink satin ruffle dress, it was all eyes on Hailey. That’s not to say that her band could be ignored though. Although they allowed Hailey to steal the spotlight the entire time, Hailey made sure to introduce the band because, honestly, her set would not have been as vibrant as it was without them. The fiddle player that joined Hailey is actually from Princeton, MN which led to a huge roar of applause when she was introduced. That was just one of the moments throughout the quick opening set where you could feel the audience was super into what Hailey was doing. Even though the majority of the audience could only sing a long to the final song that Hailey played (I was sadly so enamored by her stage presence that I forgot to write down the song title), it was clear that everyone in the sold-out arena was enjoying themselves and the music that Hailey was giving them.
Before I move onto the headliner of the night, I want to mention something that Hailey said. “It only takes one song!” What does that mean? It means that it takes one song, on moment, to make it big and achieve your dreams. Every time she mentioned opening up for the iconic Shania Twain, it was said with a sense of disbelief and it was the cutest thing on the planet. Hailey came off as completely shocked and in awe but also worthy of the accolades that she has been getting lately. Hailey stuck with music until she had that “one song” and look how it paid off. I think just hearing that and realizing that it is a grind and, if you put your heart and soul into something and don’t give up, it will pay off was something that I really needed this week.
Being that, in my mind, Shania Twain still looks the same as she did back in 1997 (check out the cover for ‘Come On Over’) I was a bit shocked as I laid eyes on the songstress. Clearly, she has found the fountain of youth because, somehow, at 57 years old, she looked younger than I did. I’m not typically one to mention looks or anything beyond saying someone is gorgeous or beautiful but I was truly just so shook by seeing Shania Twain. Throughout the set, I found myself with my jaw on the ground at her not only youthful appearance but also at her true talent and grace that was showcased throughout her extensive set.
After opening up the set from the middle of the audience, Shania graced the stage and treated the audience to a set that would end up lasting well over twenty songs and be full of passion, hits, and danceable numbers that kept everyone in the audience engaged. There was definitely production value to go with the set but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Really, it was just Shania, her amazing band, and her two ultra-talented dancers/backup singers in the spotlight. Sure, there was a giant LED screen in the back, on top, and on the ground of the stage but I felt like I had to really try to even pay attention to what was going on on said screens because I was so captivated by the humans on stage.
It wasn’t until the sixth song of her set (“You’re Still The One”) that I recognized a song but that didn’t stop me from enjoying everything else I was hearing. Sure, it has been decades since Shania Twain started putting music out and, yeah, overall, her sound has definitely changed a bit and some of her new tracks had me feeling a very Madonna vibe to them but, when you really get into it, Shania has been doing the same thing since day one and she has it absolutely perfect. From those heartfelt love songs to the danceable country-pop bops that made me wish I would have at least tried to learn square dancing, I felt like we got to see a million sides of this icon and every side was just as dynamic as the last.
Obviously, one of the many highlights of the night was hearing Shania’s iconic anthems “That Don’t Impress Me Much” and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”. It made for a super powerful ending to an absolutely stellar show but I truly think that Shania made it clear on Wednesday night that she is more than just those two hit songs. Shania Twain is a queen, a goddess, an icon, and a treasure and I am just truly so honored that I was able to witness her talent live.