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“Bow to the Queen” - Shania Twain puts on country pop masterclass in Saskatoon (Nov. 9/2023)

by Scott Roos

photos by Deanna Roos/Contingent Colours Photography

This past Thursday, November 9th, the “Queen of Country Pop Music” Shania Twain held court within the venerable walls of Saskatoon’s SaskTel Centre. The capacity crowd was treated to an entertaining evening of incredible music - one that they likely won’t forget any time soon.

Leading off the festivities was Grande Prairie-born/Nashville-based pop country songstress Tenille Townes. Townes, who made waves upon the release of her debut LP The Lemonade Stand in 2020, charged out of the gates to a rollicking, energetic start with her track “White Horse”. From the get go, Townes showed off an engaging stage presence as she quite literally rocked out for the majority of her all too short time on stage . With a first rate band backing her up, her set, with the exception of a few tender ballads like “Jersey on the Wall”, sonically took on a decidedly heavy rock with a pinch of twang vibe. With five dates on Canadian soil opening for her hero Shania Twain, Townes will no doubt continue to hone and refine what she is doing as she learns from the master. It’s clear that Townes, with her bluesy, quirky “Time For Mercy”, Duffy-esque voice, in tandem with a heaping portion of youthful exuberance, has the potential for stardom.

Townes and band put a decidedly "heavy rock" slant on country pop. (photos by Deanna Roos)

As soon as Townes exited, however, anticipation for Twain’s arrival began to mount. On her “Queen of Me” tour, Twain had been playing to capacity crowds in the nights leading up to her lone Saskatchewan date. Saskatoon was no exception. Unfortunately, only the day before, on Wednesday morning, one of her tour buses carrying members of her production crew had hit black ice, careening off the Trans Canada Highway near Wolseley.

With a starting time listed at around 8:30, the minutes rolled by. Finally, at about 8:50 pm, a solitary Twain emerged from backstage clad in a hooded leopard print outfit to address the crowd. Visibly emotional, Twain, who was not on board the bus for the accident, thanked first responders as well as members of the community of Indian Head who helped her crew in their time of need. This included a shoutout to Indian Head High School, who briefly housed as many as 40 of Twain’s people feeding them pancakes along the way. Twain told the audience that, whilst two of her crew were still in the hospital, the remainder were in attendance at the show. She urged the audience to lift their spirits by showing their love and support. The audience responded with loud cheers and applause and with that, the show began.

Twain sent out a heartfelt message to first responders who had helped out her crew after a harrowing bus crash the morning prior (photo by Deanna Roos)

As the opening notes to “Waking Up Dreaming” reverberated through the arena, with a “show must go on” attitude, Twain proceeded to put on a country pop masterclass moving about the stage effortlessly engaging the crowd. Her voice was in fine form throughout as Twain and her band performed many of the hits that she is most renowned for with standouts being tender ballad “You’re Still the One”, two stepping classic “Any Man of Mine”, medium tempo stomper “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under”, and the hook laden “(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here!” among several other “can’t leave the building without playing” tracks.

Hits aside, though, Twain is touring her most recent full length Queen of Me. In fact, the tour is actually named after the album. So, a number of songs off that record including “Giddy Up!”, “Pretty Liar”, and aforementioned set opener “Waking Up Dreaming” made their way seamlessly into the proceedings. Encores included “That Don't' Impress Me Much” and, of course, the iconic anthem of female empowerment “Man! I Feel Like a Woman”.

Collectively, the show was visually stunning, musically, everything was top notch. Moose Jaw’s own Cory Churko got a resounding ovation when introduced as one of Twain’s guitarists. But, in the end, the focus was on Twain and her magnetic stage presence. Twain still has “it” and that’s admirable. She’s the prototype for all of the country pop divas who followed in her footsteps. She’s a trailblazer still as relevant today as she was when she first came on the scene nearly 30 years ago. Classy as ever, the show she put on was definitely one for the books.

Twain with band member, and Moose Jaw expat, Cory Churko (fiddle) (photo by Deanna Roos)

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