My first memory of Shania Twain involved a high school line dancing class — Any Man of Mine blasting through tiny boombox speakers. Twenty-three years later, all it took a couple strums of those same opening chords to send shivers up my spine. Who knew? I know I sure didn’t.

This week London welcomed Canada’s country pop queen to Budweiser Gardens, as Shania Twain’s Now Tour took over the big stage July 3-4. From minute one, the crowd erupted in love and gratitude — and didn’t stop until the final notes were sung.

Shania Twain performs at Budweiser Gardens – Photo: Bill Woodcock

Kicking it off in style

Sitting down for the first show Tuesday night, I had no idea what to expect — honestly, I was blown away, and like everyone else in London that night, couldn’t get enough of what can only be described as pure Shania magic.

Heralded by an intense drum solo, and kicking off the night with the classiest of moves, Bud Gardens exploded into a wave of screams and applause as Twain walked the length of the arena through the crowd — hi-fives and smiles all the way — before climbing the stairs and breaking into an epic rendition of Life’s About to Get Good.

Soaked in sequins, the songstress sang her heart out right from the start — as to who was enjoying themselves more, Twain or the crowd, was anybody’s guest.

Shania performs at Budweiser Gardens – Photo: Bill Woodcock

Shania Twain performs at Budweiser Gardens – Photo: Bill Woodcock

Something old, something new

Belting out hit after hit, peppered with several tracks from her first offering in over a decade, Now, Twain kept the energy up, supported by a team of six insanely talented backup singer/dancers, along with an incredible band — all while weaving in, out and over giant blocks of light illuminated by everything from polka dots to leopard spots.

While it didn’t take much for the five-time Grammy winner to win over the crowd, it was her clear appreciation for what the fans had come to see that was so refreshing. Never ignoring the hits stemming from the 1995 release that made her a household name, The Woman in Me, this production clearly cranked her legacy up to 11.

Best of friends

Another highlight came in the form of Twain’s interaction with the audience itself, sharing memories, stories and at times emotions, filling in the blanks on the things that meant the most to her, creating an intensely intimate feeling.

“I don’t know how many of you know this, but I’m from Timmins, Ontario,” Twain explained to a sea of laughter and applause. “And look how far I’ve come . . . back to small town Ontario — to London Ontario.”

And then there was Lacey from Woodstock, who got the honour of walking the stage with the superstar before a quick selfie . . . with thousands of envious eyes looking on.

Shania performs at Budweiser Gardens – Photo: Bill Woodcock

The hits just keep on coming

Come on Over, UP!, Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?, You’re Still the One. Ever really think about how many Shania Twain songs you have floating around in your subconscious? For me, it was no less than a dozen easy.

It was also nice to hear the singer/songwriter still carried with her that trademark sassy, take-no-crap attitude I’ve always loved about her.

“Ladies, I’m not along when I say that when we come home from work at the end of the day, we want a foot rub and a neck rub too,” she said with a laugh before busting into Honey, I’m Home, of course (complete with red rhinestone boots one could only assume were made for walkin’) “A lot of people say to me, ‘Don’t you ever get bored of singing the same songs?’ That’s easy. Never.”

Shania performs at Budweiser Gardens – Photo: Bill Woodcock

Heading into the future

Since it was announced, the Shania Now Tour promised to be one of the most anticipated tours of 2018, her first tour since Rock This Country back in 2015. Produced by Live Nation, the adventure kicked off May 3 in Tacoma, WA, and will run through the rest of the summer, before finishing up Saturday, Aug. 4 in Las Vegas at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

With more than 90 million albums sold worldwide and U.S. sales topping 34.5 million, Twain remains the top-selling female country artist of all time with albums including her Platinum-selling 1993 debut, Shania Twain; the GRAMMY Award-winning, Double Diamond-selling 1995 release, The Woman in MeCome On Over, the best-selling studio album in Soundscan history by a female artist in any genre and the best-selling country album of all time with over 40 million units sold worldwide; and UP!, Shania’s third consecutive Diamond-selling album release.

Next up, Toronto fans will be the last Canadians to take in the spectacle at Scotiabank Arena July 6-7 before the tour heads to the states.

If you haven’t picked up tickets yet, do it. You certainly won’t regret it.

Story: Whitney South

Photos: Bill Woodcock

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Shania performs at Budweiser Gardens – Photo: Bill Woodcock

Shania performs at Budweiser Gardens – Photo: Bill Woodcock

Shania performs at Budweiser Gardens – Photo: Bill Woodcock

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