When Taylor Swift released her second album, fearless, in 2008, is a bright-eyed singer-songwriter hoping to make it big in Nashville. Fifteen years later, it’s clear she’s getting big all over. “I don’t know how it’s going to get any better than this,” the 33-year-old sings to a stadium of 70,000 people. Each of them shares feelings.
The five years since Swift’s last tour have been among her most prolific. She has made four additions to her “family” of albums: 2019 lover2020 folklore And always and 2022 midnight. At the same time, she was busy re-recording her first six albums as part of her plan to take back Master Recordings, after a very public battle with her previous record label.
Her “Eras Tour” is designed as a journey through this amazing 10-album back catalogue, from her former country hits on her self-titled debut to transitioning into pop on 1989and then to defeated folk and alternative rock folklore And forever. Throughout the opening night of the tour, it often feels as though the audience is trapped by Swift’s past, present, and future. In the 44-track, three-hour, 15-minute track listing, she explains why the concept of “era” is such an integral part of her identity. Each chapter represents a quantum leap in her art.
There is palpable jubilation at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The costumes are decorated with hand-drawn words; The faces are bright with luster. Hands covered are Swift’s lucky number 13. Fans I spoke to said the concert felt like “going home.” Swift herself admits that she felt a little overwhelmed: “I’m going to try to keep it together all night.”
A lot of Swift’s biggest hits make it to the hit list, of course, but there are surprises, too. Like the fact that it opens with “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince,” the hazy instrumental-driven ballad loverAnd Inspired by Swift’s political disappointment. On it, she portrayed herself as a high school student dealing with bullies as a symbol of the right’s gaining power in the United States, and the heartbreak and despair that came with it. The more profound pieces on the album emerge in the form of “Illicit Affairs,” the haunting track on which Swift grapples with her inner emotions, and a stunning acoustic version of “Mirror Ball,” which she dedicates to her fans. Later, they have the chance to scream and sing along to some of her most clipped lyrics on “Vigilante S***” (“I don’t dress in women / I don’t dress in men / Lately I dress for revenge”).
Each transition is marked by an outfit and group change. “Look What You Made Me Do,” the 2017 single that heralded her comeback after a long hiatus, sees different versions of Swift inside glass boxes: a nod to a time when she struggled to reconcile her sense of self with her public image. For Songs of Autumnal Isolated folklore And always Trees frame the stage and a cozy, moss-covered cabin. At one point, the stage was empty of a long wooden table that you had arranged for two. It’s low-key and cold, and mirrors the stark sound of “endure it,” where you demand someone else’s attention.
It’s telling that Swift is closing in on Karma, a tongue-in-cheek nod to how she eventually rose above the tabloid headlines and the controversies and rivalries that once swirled around her like vultures. Donning a shimmering fringe jacket, and joining the troupe of dancers, she looks as liberated as ever. “Ask me why so many fade / But I’m still here,” she sings. The answer is out there for all to see.
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