BY JAMES LO
Can you believe it? The 2014 Calgary Stampede is already over. The 10-day exhibition and festival my roommates and I had been waiting for since moving here in January has come to a close. I even mentioned looking forward to the Stampede way back in my very first blog post in early June. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and read it here.
It was an incredible blur of plaid shirts, cowboy hats, and ridiculous amounts of beer. But boy did the ‘Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’ live up to its name! Although it has been reduced to nothing more than just blurry snapchats and a chronic hangover, the 2014 Calgary Stampede will go down in my memory (and the record books) as one of the very best!
My very first Stampede experience actually living in the City of Calgary was definitely a memorable one. I had attended the Stampede for the past 2 years, including last year’s festival following the 2013 Alberta Floods. However, this was my first opportunity to experience how the entire city truly embraces the spectacle of it all and parties for 2 weeks. What a treat! Time to step up your game K-Days!
Over the past 10 days, I’ve had the opportunity to experience almost everything the Stampede had to offer including concerts. My girlfriend and I had the pleasure of seeing Shania Twain, Dallas Smith, and Keith Urban as part of the Calgary Stampede Concert Series and Coca-Cola Stage!
calgary stampede concert series – shania twain – thursday, july 10
(Photography Credit: Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald)
Aside from her two-year residency at Caesar’s Palace for her ‘Still the One‘ show in Las Vegas, Shania Twain has not played a full concert on Canadian soil in over a decade. A decade! Our new Whipper Snappers are barely a decade old!
With over 75 million records sold, the highest-selling female country artist of all time put on an entertaining show for a sold-out crowd of about 14,000 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
After making her grand entrance on horseback dressed as an RCMP officer, Shania belted out tunes such as ‘I’m Gonna Getcha Good!‘, ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much‘, ‘Any Man of Mine‘, ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman‘, ‘You’re Still the One‘, and (my personal favourite) ‘From This Moment On‘.
Those string of enduring hits are the reason why she’s been able to justify her 10-year absence from the public eye and yet her popularity still hasn’t seemed to wane, selling out back-to-back shows in minutes.
Despite the tremendous crowds, the show’s production did not live up to the hype of a concert of this magnitude or ticket price. First, a giant video screen in the middle of the arena failed to work properly for the first few songs. Next, it seemed that Shania’s video production team slapped together a bunch of cheesy, cowboy-laden saloon graphics minutes before the show in what were a string of truly awful video montages for a number of songs. Finally, the Scotiabank Saddledome cut all liquor services and closed all concessions before 9 pm. Absolutely brutal!
However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. While the 48 year old’s voice lacked the certain vibrance we were all accustomed to during her impressive run in the 90s, Shania still shone like a star. With a number of incredible costume changes, Shania brought theatrics and crowd interaction to a whole new level. She made it snow during ‘You’re Still the One,’ (below) took a bunch of selfies on stage with fans (many of whom were American), and even invited fans on stage to sing around a campfire!
However, the highlight of the show came in the form of a rambunctious fan named Dave. Invited on stage by Shania to sing around the campfire, Dave took a bunch of selfies with her, danced and flipped a fellow fan over his shoulder, and even received a kiss from Canada’s Country Queen (albeit on the cheek).
Interestingly enough, Shania’s backup singers, introduced as classic duo RyanDan, are actually Canadian twins Ryan and Dan Kowarsky. You may remember them as 2 of the 3 hair-gelled guidos from the Canadian boy band, b4-4 (Before 4), from the late 90s and early 2000s. If you don’t remember, here’s a little refresher with plenty of sexual innuendo…
Opening act, High Valley, played a nice, quaint 30-minute set with no visuals, powerful vocals, and ended off the night with a crowd selfie, which set the tone for what was to come…
Regardless, Shania’s encore was exactly the crowd-pleasing finale you would expect with songs ‘You’re Still the One,’ ‘From This Moment On,’ (below) and ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman‘. As the curtain fell on her 90 minute set, her performance left fans feeling like they got exactly what they came for.
It wasn’t the concert of the year but it was quite entertaining. And you can’t help but wonder if this Calgary Stampede Concert Series is a sign she’s ready to write new material and begin touring again.
I guess what happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay in Vegas.
(3.5 stars out of 5)
coca-cola stage – dallas smith – friday, july 11
If you think you haven’t heard of Dallas Smith before, you might just want to think again. Prior to meeting my girlfriend, like the vast majority of people, I too thought I had no idea who was.
But I bet that you have heard of a Canadian band known as Default, whose lead singer is none other than Dallas Smith. If I still haven’t jogged your memory, take a listen to the song below because you’re just wasting my time. Get it?
Since forming in 1999, Default has released 4 albums and sold more than 1 million records. In early 2013, the band announced a hiatus to start different projects. Enter Dallas Smith.
In 2012, Dallas Smith released his debut solo country album, Jumped Right In, and performed his first solo tour with co-headliner Chad Brownlee. In 2013, he signed with Republic Nashville, released his first American single, and opened for Florida Georgia Line during the Canadian leg of their tour.
Now to my review. In my opinion, Dallas Smith’s performance was the very best of the 3 concerts I had the pleasure of attending at the Calgary Stampede. Unlike the glitz and glamour of mainstream popularity boasted by Shania Twain and Keith Urban, all Dallas Smith needed to bring with him was his catchy lyrics and incredible voice.
I am by no means a country-music fan. But maybe that’s why he appealed the most to me. He hasn’t left his Default-roots very far behind but has found his niche as a country-rock singer. At first I thought he was overworking his voice to sound more and more like a country singer. However, upon further reflection of his songs from his days with Default, he sounds exactly the same today as he did all those years ago.
I would argue that Dallas Smith had the largest crowd of any other Coca-Cola Stage artist this year and it was well-deserved. Excellent performance!
(Special thanks to Amanda King for her photos of Shania Twain and Dallas Smith!)
(4.5 stars out of 5)
calgary stampede concert series – keith urban – saturday, july 12
(Photography Credit: David Moll, Calgary Herald)
The last performance review of my Calgary Stampede Concert Series is none other than Keith Urban. Back for his second turn at the Scotiabank Saddledome this year (he played here on January 17), Urban played a tight, albeit predictable and safe set on Saturday night. He had little in the form of special effects, big screens or flashy lights. But make no mistake, he is one helluva guitar player. And it more than makes up for a lack of glitz and glamour.
However, it’s the crowd-interaction where Urban truly shines. Highlights of the night include inviting a bachelorette party on stage to take a selfie with him as well as asking a couple on stage to country-swing dance to one of his tunes.
And with the abundance of performers taking selfies with fans at the Calgary Stampede this year, my friends and I thought we would get in on the action too…
(L to R – My girlfriend, Amanda, My buddy, Shawn, and ME!)
It certainly wasn’t the best concert I’ve ever been, but it followed the formula for a good performance. I was just left with wanting a little more… Stupid Boy!
(3.5 stars out of 5)
Do you agree or disagree with any of my concert reviews? Please comment below and let me know what you thought of Shania Twain, Dallas Smith, Keith Urban, or any of the performances at this year’s Calgary Stampede!