October 17th, 2003 was not only the first time I had ever seen Shania Twain live in concert; it was the first concert I had ever seen. She had just begun her “Up! Tour.” I remember when my parents took me to the concert, we were so far back in the MCI Center (now known as the Capital One Arena) my dad actually brought me binoculars, so I could see what was happening on stage. The memories I had from 15 years ago are a bit fuzzy, but I’ll never forget the excitement from that performance; the amazement of hearing Shania sing as well as she does on each album she releases.
That’s why when the renowned Queen of Country Pop announced her final tour back in 2015, the only words that could describe her fan’s reaction is a mixture of sadness and gratitude — sadness that one of country music’s biggest stars would be leaving the road behind, but grateful she went all out each and every night she performed for 52 nights, along with completing a residency in Las Vegas. You can imagine how hearing Shania Twain was returning with her first new studio album, Now, seemed like a dream. But as Tampa learned, it wasn’t a dream at all.
When I first walked into Amalie Arena, the heat of the room’s temperature hit me instantly. It feels borderline claustrophobic but more like a warm embrace. Twain’s drummer Elijah Wood makes her way to a small stage in the middle of the floor and began to bang out the stomp-stomp-clap intro to Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” the instrumental of to “Any Man of Mine” slowly fading in to accompany her hard-hitting rhythm. As the Amalie Arena became dimly lit, a spotlight shined on the crowd. Shania Twain appeared seemingly out of nowhere and made her way through Section 114 towards the stage, shaking the hands of those in her path and jolting near 14,000 fans to their feet to whip out their cell phones.
Dressed in a dazzles with neon and cheetah print swirling on screen behind her and backup singers accompanying her, Twain kick-started the show with the pop side of her catalog early. Her opening song “Life’s About to Get Good” is a perfect way to describe the evening as a whole, followed by the merry “Come On Over.” Once she ascended to the top of her shape-shifting stage, Twain was thrust up to the sky as she sang “Up!” to lift everyone’s mood.
By the middle of the set, a different Twain comes out. The notified pop star we’d seen up to this point was replaced with the old country-fied Shania most people recognize. The fiddle-fueled “Any Man Of Mine” positively filled the arena, with Twain and her back up dancers kicking out a little shimmy-shake at the end. “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” embraced Twain’s campier side.
One of the major highlights of the evening is when Twain is hoisted up into a harness, floating across the arena on a chariot resembling a guitar case. As she hovered over the main floor strummed an acoustic guitar, she asked for all members of the audience to take out there phones and turn on the camera lights “so [she] could see all [our] wonderful faces.” As she sang “You’re Still The One” the arena echoed in unison, everyone’s voices matching up to the beauty and energy in Twain’s own.
From there, the momentum slows a bit as Twain made her way once again through the crowds to the main stage, gathering a party of kids and superfans from the crowd to join her up on stage for interviews and selfies. It’s hard not to be jealous of these lucky individuals. This moment is a bit of a slow breather, but it did show, in spite of Twain’s superstardom, she’s remained humble throughout the years.
She brings out her opening act, Swiss singer Bastian Baker for a rocked-up “Party of Two” and the dub-doused “Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed.” During the former, Baker proved he isn’t the next Mark McGrath or the next Billy Currington — he doesn’t need to be. Baker’s voice has the youth and energy reminiscent of other incredible country artists, such as Hunter Hayes or Kip Moore, yet has the charisma and stage presence that of which is similar to Shawn Mendes. The two of them together got the crowd ripe and ready for the rock-filled “Rock This Country” and the floor tom heavy “If You’re Not In It For Love (I’m Out of Here)!”
When the show began, Twain came out of nowhere. By the end, she had fans hooting and covered in streamers and confetti. Whether it’s your first time seeing her or your 50th, you’re guaranteed a performance that will get you up and dancing along, and might have you learning a song or two you might’ve never heard before. And man, while I may not feel like a woman, I did feel like I was once again 11 years old again enjoying my first concert.
Shania Twain Photos
Shania Twain Tampa 2018 Review and Photos by James Strassberger.
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