Shania Twain review, Glastonbury Festival 2024: Euphoric Legends set of relentless hits overcomes sound issues

Don’t take this as an invitation to stop reading, but this entire review could probably be condensed into one word: “Yee-haw.”

As Shania Twain struts out onto Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage, before a bouncing human prairie tufted with kitsch cowboy hats, it feels like you are about to witness the detonation of a hundred-megaton Weapon of Mass Camp.

Wearing an ostentatious pink coat and black sequined dress, and flanked by a procession of decorative horse heads on raised sticks, the Canadian country-pop icon seems to gesture to her pre-announced intention to “borrow” a horse and ride it onto the festival’s biggest stage. “I’ll have to find out if I’m allowed,” she told the BBC last week. We can only assume she was not.

But even sin caballo, this is a Legends slot with a healthy splash of theatricality. Perhaps the most reliably entertaining fixture on the festival’s main stage, the so-called fourth headline slot has in recent years been filled by such musical goliaths as Dolly Parton, Yusuf/Cat Stevens and Kenny Rogers.

In terms of hits, Twain is as much of a Very Big Deal as any of them: one of the elite strata of the biggest selling artists of all time. Her setlist is accordingly showy. From the thumping opening chords of “Don’t Impress Me Much”, it’s immediately clear we’re in for a set of relentless, earwormish hits.

Shania Twain struts her stuff on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury on Sunday (Getty Images)
Shania Twain struts her stuff on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury on Sunday (Getty Images)

On record, Twain has a voice that is sharp and singular, with the clarity of cut glass. It’s been altered somewhat by her decades-long struggle with Lyme disease – a condition that began when she was bitten by a tick while on horseback – but it’s still remarkably forceful. When she wants, she can still belt, albeit with a trace of wavering vibrato.

What significant faults there are to be found in the set seem largely out of Twain’s control. “Up” is so bassy as to almost drown out completely her brilliant backing band – the livewire, soloing fiddles being a particular highlight.

The mix is considerably cleaner on “I’m Gonna Getcha Good”, and, after a few subtle interventions from Twain, the sound seems to improve as the show goes on. “You’re Still the One” is performed sitting down, and kicked off via a tuneful crowd singalong.

“Country music” is often a term so broad as to be functionally meaningless: the idea that one genre could encompass something as gentle and soulful as the music of Gillian Welch, and as brash and plastic as that of Morgan Wallen, is absurd.

Brilliant and camp: Twain sings along with the crowd (Getty Images)
Brilliant and camp: Twain sings along with the crowd (Getty Images)

But Twain’s sound manages to straddle the spectrum. Its poppier moments – the pulsating “You Win My Love”, for instance – are garish, sure, but in a way that is joyous and buoyant. On tracks such as the infectious love ballad “Forever and Always”, from the 2002 album Up!, Twain cuts through the spurs-and-Stetson artifice with a rendition that’s sincere and stirring.

“I’m feeling frickin’ amazing!” she screeches at the crowd, as the set canters towards its climax – an effervescent performance of “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” Despite the hangovers, sunburn and physical exhaustion, Twain’s Pyramid Stage rodeo seems to have left pretty much everyone who watched it feeling the same way.