Shania Twain at BST Hyde Park in London review: Impressively good vibes

Shania Twain (Image: Republic)
Shania Twain (Image: Republic)

Audiences – and especially music critics – should exercise kindness and respect to legacy singers whose voices are affected by ailments. That was the big takeaway for this reviewer from the excellent I Am: Celine Dion, which documents the star’s experience of Stiff Person Syndrome with unflinching focus.

Shania Twain’s doc Not Just a Girl, in which she opened up about her battle with Lyme disease, had a similar effect when released in 2022. Having contracted the tick-borne illness in 2003, the country music icon went on to have open throat surgery, and her voice was inevitably changed forever.

By the end of Celine’s film, the lasting effect of SPS on her voice remains unclear. The star remains understandably ambivalent about recording and performing in the future. True fans, of course, will support her whatever she decides to do. But if Celine is actively looking for inspiration to return to the stage, come what may on the vocal front, she might look to Shania’s knockout performance in London’s Hyde Park last night. The country music icon, turbocharged by a suite of singles that will never age, and in control of pleasingly matured voice, is back on the horse and loving it.

What’s really cheering about the ‘Up!’ singer’s approach to performing in 2024 is her easy, breezy indifference to getting it wrong. If anything, she seems liberated by the knowledge that she won’t hit every high note. And that her fans will adore her all the more for even trying. As such, her fabulously raspy voice, still a pleasure to listen to, remains high in the mix. Albeit blended to sweet harmonic effect with fiddlers, backing singers, the whole nine yards.

There are other beautiful imperfections. She slightly misses her cue on ‘From This Moment On’ – the opening note preceded by a breathy “Ffff!” – and on a sadly shortened ‘You’re the Still the One’, which she performs acoustically, she freely leans leans on the audience to reenforce the tune. Such mitigation is unnecessary. I’d actually be interested to hear her even more exposed, such as on the sparse ‘You’ve Got a Way’. She may not sound exactly as she did on record in 1998, but when it’s just Shania, her guitar and her emotions, operating to full, moving effect, she tells a new story. Namely, one of boundless optimism.

Indeed, her journey has done nothing to dim her astronomical personality, which vibrates between songs. She tells long, rambling anecdotes, such as about meeting Harry Styles. (“I think I’m actually older than his mother!”) All are charming. She actually hugs the “fake” tree framing the BTS stage, where most pretend not to notice it, perhaps preoccupied with looking cool. She’s so comfortable with the audience, in fact, that at one point, she almost blows her nose at us, turning around only at the last moment with a girlish giggle. Put simply, she’s silly, flighty company – an effect heightened by a chic Vivienne Westwood skirt and jacket co-ord that Cher from Clueless would die for.

The setlist lags in places – there’s a surprising lack of universally known songs outside of the Come On Over album – and some of the visuals are a bit naff. (A cloudy sky for ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman!’ is a missed opportunity when there are so many interesting things you could do to update the gender-play in that iconic music video). But these are minor gripes about a robust show that’s all about having fun.

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