Live Review: Shania Twain – AO Arena, Manchester 25/09/23

Photo Credit: Ian McDonnell (Dublin show)

Words by Dale Unsworth

After months of waiting, the day had finally come for everyone to don their cowboy hats and boots and begin their pilgrimage to the most sacred of events in the calendars of drunk white women and members of the LGBTQ+ everywhere: Shania Twain’s Queen of Me tour. 

Prior to the show, I had the ingenious idea to wear a Cowboy hat but my idea was taken by the other 20,000 people. I would just like to have it on record that it was my idea to wear a Cowboy hat at a Shania Twain show first but it was nice to be influential for once. 

The merch was fairly reasonable for an arena show in Manchester but one of the most notable inclusions was a Cowboy hat with LEDs which at one point I was worried they could be one of the most irritating inventions since the Vuvuzela but they became easy to tune out. 

New Jersey country act Breland came out shortly after a short video about his experiences in Country music and his love of Shania played. His music is clearly inspired by Shania and other pop country acts of the 90s, which is made very clear from the opening track Natural. 

Breland has so much youthful charisma and exuberance in his stage presence and he backs that up by having a versatile singing voice. He has to switch between soulful R&B delivery on tracks like Throw it Back to Cowboy Don’t. 

He has the attitude that is required to make the aesthetic and sound work together. Despite being from New Jersey, you’d be forgiven for thinking he was actually Southern, he somehow manages to insert just the right amount of twang and drawl into tracks like Cowboy Don’t. 

Breland ended his set with Don’t Touch my Truck, a track that is sure to become an anthem to Country boys as they cruise around Nashville in their Ford 4150s. It’s an infectious track that feels authentic even though it’s arguably a little silly but that’s probably the intention of the song anyway. 

This article will aim to be as spoiler free as possible but there may be certain moments that are worth experiencing without prior knowledge if you intend to see the show. With that said; the stage design was fairly simple but there were surprises and changes throughout the set. 

She opened with Waking up Dreaming, a bright and hopeful track about experiencing the best that life has to offer and being in total disbelief that it could happen to you. That experience was definitely being felt by the people Shania walked by as she started her set in the audience. 

There were props on stage for a considerable amount of the set including the motorcycle featured on I’m Gonna Getcha Good and the set regularly changed with lots of engaging details and breaks led by her surprisingly large backing band. 

Her backing band was airtight as they ripped through all time classic pop rock songs like the Alanis Morissette style breakup rocker Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under, the twangy yee haw anthem Giddy Up and the raucous 12A rated Pretty Liar which was complete with a parental advisory warning. 

Party for Two would be a strange song to perform solo and that’s why Breland came back on stage to perform Inhale/Exhale Air and Party for Two and it’s clear just how much respect they have for each other as musicians. They have wonderful chemistry together and their voices work together extremely well. Shania seems genuinely excited about the future of country music and for Breland to evolve as a musician and after tonight, many people shared that sentiment. 

Shania opted to perform truncated deep cuts towards including tracks like Pretty Face, Nah and Waiter! Bring me my Water! This was more to switch up the set and include songs that Shania has rarely, if ever, played live. There was a CD player theme holding it all which was an interesting throwback theme considering most people haven’t owned a CD player since 2009.

Congratulations to the couple who got engaged on stage, it was a classy moment that many in the audience will remember for years to come. Specific shoutout to the gentleman for opting to one up the Jumbotron proposal by literally having Shania Twain watch you pop the question before dedicating From This Moment On to them and shout out to the lady for saying yes. An iconic moment in live music. 

Shania ended her set with the quintessential “screw this” anthem: (If You’re Not in this for Love) I’m Outta Here. The song has a huge glam rock spirit and acts as a perfect closer with a guitar riff that sounds straight from a Bon Jovi track and stomping drums. It’s a massively anthemic track that builds up to Shania dramatically falling through a trap door setup but don’t worry, she survived. 

The encore was made up of two of the biggest tracks of the 90s: That Don’t Impress Me Much and Man, I Feel Like a Woman. These tracks are legendary but the thing that made this part of the show incredibly special was that they were performed while Shania was wearing the original outfit from the Man, I Feel Like a Woman video. Shania remarked “this outfit is in better shape than I am because it’s been in a museum for 26 years” which is an incredible feat because both Shania and her outfit look phenomenal. 

Shania Twain is a music legend and she is still putting out some of the best music of her career after decades in the industry as well as influencing the new school of country/pop/rock. Her live show has all of the production value you’d expect from such a massive act and the environment of her shows is such a welcoming environment, all you need is a drink and a Cowboy hat and you’re a part of a family. 

While waiting for a train, a woman gave away her hat to a group of young women as if to say “I’m hanging up the Cowboy life until I’m needed again…and I will be needed again” before she walked off into the sunset, a feat made all the more impressive by the the fact that sunset was several hours earlier. 

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