It is increasingly hard to grasp what fame must have been like for individuals in the time before the internet made it possible for anyone anywhere to go viral. Back when the only people who had a real voice in the world were those promoted by companies with money to burn, those performers lucky enough to win over the hearts of people around the world did so in a way that those born in the last twenty years may never see in their lifetime. It sounds old-fashioned to say now, but the term superstar actually meant something back then because particular people were inescapable. They were larger than life, and everyone everywhere knew their names because pop culture as a whole was actually quite finite.
Shania Twain was one of the last musicians to rise to a godlike level of fame before the age of the internet. Her crossover from country to global pop star is unmatched in the history of music, and it’s birthed some of the most memorable songs of the last fifty years. She spent fifteen years away from the spotlight before releasing 2017’s Now, but time did not age her or her music. She is as popular now as she has ever been, and she more than proved her staying power when her latest headlining tour stopped in Grand Rapids, Michigan on July 18.
Hitting the stage just after nine at night, Twain entered Van Andel Arena not from backstage, but from the lower bowl of the venue. Accompanied by bodyguards the living legend made her way through the crowd before walking up a short flight of steps to rapturous applause. Her first cut was newer, as made clear by the lack of crowd participation, but it didn’t really matter. No one cared that they didn’t know the words because Shania Twain was sharing the same oxygen as them, and she was performing something high energy that was made even more engaging with the help of dancers and five large cubes covered in LED screens. Twain did not need a spectacle, but she brought one nonetheless.
Twain entertained the West Michigan crowd with a hit-heavy playlist for over two full hours. At one point, in the midst of her third costume change, a screen fell over the stage, and a video projection showed a silhouette of Twain watching videos for chart-topping songs that didn’t make the night’s setlist. Fans in attendance cheered for each track, and almost everyone sang along with every line. Those who remained silent were either distracted or far too young to know the songs being referenced. Either way, they swayed along to the music all the same.
The massive stage production went off without issue or setback, but what made the night memorable were the moments Twain appeared to step outside the cogs of a well-oiled stage show and into the real world with those in attendance. She engaged the audience often, though her conversations were limited mainly to heaping praise on those within her view. “You all look so good,” she exclaimed, again and again, while pointing to people in the crowd only she could see. “I love you all so much.”
The highlight for three fans in attendance came late in the show following a stirring rendition of “Still The One” performed on a smaller secondary stage near the back of the arena. Twain once again chose to walk through the crowd to return to the stage, but not before requesting the assistance of three people nearby. Those fortunate souls helped escort Twain through the crowd before participating in a brief Q&A on stage as production prepared for the next set of material. Local references abounded, which provided plenty of opportunity for applause, and Twain knew just how to work those in the room for maximum effect. After all, you don’t get to the top of the world without learning a thing or two about show business.
Shania Twain’s tour continues through December. Find dates and ticket information on her official website.