Shania Twain• Queen Of Me Tour• w/ Hailey Whitters• May 24, 2023• USANA Amphitheatre
Reviewed and Photographed by Kevin Rolfe
It’s hard to believe, but after a historically long Winter, Spring, and Summer are finally here. That means concerts are moving outdoors. On Wednesday, May 24, USANA Amphitheatre opened its doors for the first time this year. Opening night was about as big as it will get all summer with Country Music/ Crossover Mega-Star, Shania Twain taking the stage. Twain brought her Queen of Me Tour to town and with her 20,000 fans squeezed into the large venue.
There was so much excitement in the air. Even with doors being held due to weather, people seemed to be in great spirits. Merch lines were long, drink lines were long, and in both I could see people talking to each other, asking if they’d seen Shania before, where their seats were, and what she might perform. I enjoyed seeing familiar faces, from fellow photographers to security, to the local promoters. It felt like the fun part of the first day of school.
I’m not sure if I’m someone who people would look at as Shania Twain fan. I’m a fan of alternative music. But one day back in 1998 (Yes I can remember that far back!) a friend called me and asked last minute if I’d be interested in seeing Shania Twain at the Hollywood Bowl. She show was set to start in just a few hours and we had no idea if there were even tickets. But always one to be willing to see just about anyone in concert I reluctantly said I’d go.
We got to the venue and it was just about sold out. In fact, I believe our two purchased tickets made it so. From the first song, which incidentally was “Man! I Feel Like A Woman”, to the closer “Rock This Country” I was totally impressed. I became a “Twainer” that day and I won’t apologize for it now. Fast forward to present day, it was surreal to be pulling my camera out of its bag, getting ready to shoot photos and review Ms. Twain. Anyway, it was a great moment for me. On with the show!
First up was Hailey Whitters, a Country Music musician who has written songs for other artists but is now staking her claim as a performer in the industry. Whitters was all smiles when she took the stage. The audience was welcoming and while it seemed they were saving their energy for Shania, I saw many bobbing their heads and saying, “Oh I know this song”. Being an opener is not easy. Being an opener with someone as massive as Shania Twain must be so intimidating. But Hailey Whitters took it all in stride and even got the crowd to clap along to some of her songs. She brought an extremely talented band with her. I enjoyed watching how they all interacted with each other during the songs
Hailey’s voice is the first thing that stood out to me. She has a clear, strong, perfect country voice. I would imagine the first time a producer, record executive, or talent agent hearing her and thinking, “We’ve got something special here”. The crowd’s excitement grew when they heard Whitters play her single, “Everything She A’int”. I was happy for her to be on this tour and get this type of exposure. Hailey Whitters recently won the ACM Award for New Female Artist of The Year. I think her career trajectory is on the way up. Keep an eye on Hailey Whitters. I think she’s going places.
I showed up at the assigned place where I would be taking pictures and things seemed a little more intense than normal. One of the people from Live Nation came up and told us that Shania would be making a surprise entrance along the path between the 200 and 300 sections of the seats. So we would have to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. I walked to where I thought would be safe to stand and quickly security scooted us away. At that moment I noticed I was scooting with an additional photographer than I had seen that night. We were joking about finding a safe spot to go to without being in the way. He looked so familiar, but I couldn’t place him.
Was he a local photographer I just hadn’t seen in a while? Was he a touring photographer that I had met when he was on another tour? I couldn’t figure it out, but he was very nice and we were both excited for Shania to appear. After shooting the first three songs and returning to my seat, it hit me! I quickly pulled out my phone and opened Google. My search confirmed that I was chumming it up with Shania Twain’s husband, Frédéric Thiébaud.
Shania hopped out of a bin and the crowd went wild. She made her way along the concourse during her opening song, “Waking Up Dreaming” from her most recent album Queen of Me. People in the area were so excited to have Shania that close to them. Phones were out. People were trying to take selfies with Twain in the background or grab video as she rolled by them. It was a fun and exciting way to begin a show. I’ve been close to singers before, but I’m pretty sure this was the closest I’ve been. I could hear her singing. Not through the speakers by way of the microphone. I could hear her voice as she sang into the microphone. For someone who was at the tippy top of the Hollywood Bowl a million years ago, it was a pretty cool experience to be that close.
Before the show, someone asked me if I thought we’d hear any hits. Or if it would just be a bunch of the new stuff. I assured this person, without actually knowing the answer, that they wouldn’t be disappointed in how many hits they’d hear. I was happy to be right. And so quickly. After the opener, Shania Twain ran through a flurry of hit songs. Songs that could have been performed much later in the show.
I was actually pretty surprised that some were performed so early! Songs like, “Up!”, “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)”, “I’m Gonna Get You Good”, “Still The One”, “Any Man of Mine”, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under”, and “Honey I’m Home” were all performed within the first ten songs of the show! I mean, people come on! These are songs I’d expect to be part of the show’s home stretch. It’s no surprise that the next song was “Inhale/ Exhale Air”. We needed a breather! Those are some huge huge hits for Shania, and people were singing every word of every song.
I thought Shania Twain did a good job of introducing songs creatively. Sometimes she’d play her acoustic guitar and sing the chorus or first lines of the song. Then later the band would join her. I thought some of the arrangements were a little different but still true enough to the original. I liked the way she mixed things up a bit. Each time she start a song, her fans would always act surprised and then elated. And of course, that reaction would be followed by screaming out the lyrics. There was a really fun party atmosphere in the crowd. The crowd loved hearing Shania Twain tell us that we “…live in a gorgeous place.” Shania also played a medley of songs that she wouldn’t normally play but has received a lot of requests for.
Shania does such a great job engaging with her fans. As I mentioned with her first song she went through the audience. Later in the night, she brought some of the audience to her. When she performed her ballad, “From This Moment On” she had about twenty or so fans on stage to watch her perform the song up close. During an extended intro of the song, she made her way to each group, who were sitting standing around tall tables, and put her arm around them and took selfies. Then she walked up the stairs to the upper stage and performed the song that a lot of newlyweds danced to for their first dance at their wedding in the early 2000s. People turned on their phone lights, swayed back and forth, some slow dancing with one another. Nostalgia was at an all-time high.
There was another special fan moment where Shania wanted to feature someone from the audience. A woman named, Laura was invited to come to the stage. Laura wrote Shania to tell her that she was told she was cancer free. As she made her way to the stage the crowd chanted “Laura, Laura, Laura!”. Laura was understandably emotional. She gave Shania a big hug as the audience cheered her on. They dueted an acapella version of “From This Moment On”. Laura then pointed out her fiance in the crowd and told Shania that he had just proposed that night. Shania and Laura sang the finish to “From This Moment On” to him. It was a touching moment, unique to our show at USANA Amphitheatre and one that I’m sure Laura will never forget!
Before I get to the conclusion of this review, I need to rant. There’s this weird thing going on where it seems people who claim to be Shania Twain fans are smearing her over social media. One posted a video saying “Look at everyone walking out of the show”. The video clearly shows people just making a beer run while the majority of the arena is packed. Another shows a video of people leaving, saying it’s from the middle of the concert when it’s clearly at the end.
There’s another video of someone trying to say Shania is incoherent on stage due to drugs or alcohol. The video is so obviously Shania teaching the audience the part of the song she’s about to do. It’s totally taken out of context. And then one post talks about how bad she sounds, and another claims she’s lip-syncing. Why is this happening? Why are people so negative? If the show “don’t impress you much” keep it to yourself. Don’t try to get famous by lying and being negative about it.
If you don’t like Shania Twain it’s weird that you’re at her concert. It’s also weird that you’re taking the time to be negative just to get views, I’m guessing. You’re not an influencer. Shania Twain fans are pretty devout and you’re attempts are pretty pathetic. Shania Twain has had voice issues. Two surgeries on her throat will attest to that. There were times in the concert were the effects of those surgeries were noticeable. She’s not going to sound like an album that came out 25 years ago. Few artists do. Also, is she lip-syncing or does she sound bad? I don’t think someone is going to lip-synch themselves sounding bad. Just a hunch. I couldn’t tell if she was lip-syncing or not.
I will say there were some sound issues where at times Shania would be quieter than the backing vocals or the band. There were some mix issues. But nothing that prevented anyone from having fun. There just seems to be a real effort out there for people to be unfair to Shania Twain. I just want to set the record straight that she is still one of the best performers today, and 20,000 well, 19,999 fans going nuts would back me up. Ok, rant over.
Shania Twain returned to the stage after an encore break to perform her huge hit, “That Don’t Impress Me Much”. USANA Amp turned into a dance club. People were having so much fun. After the song, Shania told us that she brought along an old friend. She was referring to the leopard print coat she wore in the video. People loved that. Especially the fans who were wearing replicas throughout the venue.
We all knew what was coming. And yet, the sold-out USANA Amphitheatre went absolutely wild when they heard, “Let’s Go Girls”. “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” would be the closing song of the night. Fans of all ages were singing the song back to Shania and her awesome band. She strutted back and forth across the stage waving and singing. It gives me great delight when I see men who might otherwise hold back, sing out “Man! I Feel Like A Woman”. People just love this song and it felt like they just couldn’t wait to sing along.
Shania brings it. She gives the audience what they want from her show. Her songs are catchy and fun. The night was fueled by positive energy. I hope she comes back and sees us soon. Utah definitely loves her. She has so many hits. It wasn’t until I got home that I thought ‘Oh wait, she didn’t do this one or that one.’ That’s the sign of a great show. This was the first night of the USANA Amphitheatre season. The other shows are going to have to work really hard to top this.