Our car inched along West Steels Corners Road at an achingly slow pace, with three-and-a-half miles to go. Our estimated time of arrival delayed and delayed, first five minutes, then 15, then 45, then 60 later than originally planned.
The folks behind us hopped out of their van, a crew in cowboy boots and hats, and embarked toward the venue, abandoning whatever unfortunate driver had to stay with the car.
My sister and I placed bets — with three-and-a-half miles to go, would they beat us in, or would we pass them? Our car crept forward another few inches. A few other folks exited a car in front of us, to not-so-secretly relieve themselves in some bushes, and walked back before we had moved any more.
Ah… the pains of a sold-out Blossom Music Center show.
Not just any show — Shania Twain, the queen of country pop, who hadn’t played in Northeast Ohio since 2018 and, before that, 2003, according to setlist.fm records. Country shows always have a big draw at Blossom, but this night seemed to be a different beast, causing three-hour traffic jam waits for some friends also in attendance.
Like myself, many fans were stuck in their cars while opening act Priscilla Block performed, missing the entire set.
Luckily, we got in before Twain kicked off — with only a few minutes to spare.
As the stage lights flicked around, Twain first appeared seemingly out of nowhere in the middle of the crowd to sing her first song, the peppy “Waking Up Dreaming,” to the pavilion’s audiences, before working her way to the main stage.
Sporting a mane of lavender hair and a matching flowing purple dress, Twain strutted around the stage, performing a variety of hits that helped earn her five Grammy awards and global acclaim over the past three decades. She spun out everything from the heartfelt “You’re Still The One,” “From This Moment” and “Forever and For Always” to the peppy “Giddy Up!,” “Rock This Country” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” The far-ranging set also included plenty of activities in-between songs, bringing families and friends and couples onstage to get a closer experience of all things Twain.
But how much was she actually singing? Reports of lip-synching in Twain’s Queen of Me tour have been widely noted — and that was certainly the case at the Blossom stop. While in line for the women’s restroom, I overheard a particularly frustrated concertgoer share her disappointment in Twain, stating she planned on leaving the show early after spending $750 on two front-row tickets. From that close-up vantage point, she could tell the singer wasn’t actually performing live — her moving lips not exactly lining up with a recorded version of her voice.
That was the case on just some of the set; there were also points where Twain sang and belted out like usual.
Twain’s voice isn’t what it used to be; she’s been transparent about her harrowing experiences with both Lyme disease and coronavirus in recent years. COVID-19 even inspired her new song “Inhale Exhale AIR” from her newest album Queen of Me. As Twain sings “What you gonna do with that air?,” her voice is noticeably huskier than it sounded in her late-’90s and early ‘00s heyday. There’s something to be said for transparency.
Twain might have used a bit of lip-synching, but she was doing it with a crowd that knew and loved her music to the point of being able to sing along to most words. And it did so with style — many attendees sported flashing white Twain cowboy hats, waving them in the air throughout the show.
By the end of the night for the closer and her ultimate anthem “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!,” Twain didn’t even need to sing the words. About 20,000 of her fans — myself included — belted out the iconic lyrics, with force.
For as much of a pain as Blossom's notorious hours-long drive and parking can be — which we'd soon revisit on the way out of the venue — it all feels worth it in moments like these. Thousands of us, here on a hillside, singing these songs together: a country-pop choir, led by Shania Twain.
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