I’m a Swifty, I admit. I know Tay’s albums by heart, and have dutifully scoffed at all the jerks and cads and general heartbreakers who populate her songs, songs that I really love.
Then she released Red and I started to think, “I don’t know, Taylor, maybe you’re the problem.” This was the start of my personal T-Swift backlash. And it wasn’t just the endless relationship drama. To my ear, her music had started to take on a less engaging, relatable tone. No longer could I delude myself into thinking that Taylor and I, like, totally got each other — which, of course, is a big part of what has made her a superstar.
Would seeing my pop star frenemy live change my mind?
I missed openers Joel Crouse and Austin Mahone while navigating the hordes of teenage girls, but did catch mildly fratty (and Taylor-approved) British folk-pop-rapper Ed Sheeran, who did a fair job of holding his own alone on stage, and gave the crowd a lesson in looping. His urging of the audience to sing along — nay, scream along — was largely disregarded. He did, however, have at least one tween crying and hyperventilating, which in itself is a testament to the power of the Swift empire.
From the moment Taylor herself appeared in larger-than-life silhouette behind a billowing red curtain, I was sold. And judging by the defining screams which continued throughout the show, so was everyone else at the sold-out show. Her opener, “State of Grace” — a song I didn’t pay much attention to on Red — proved to be a total stadium rocker, especially when punctuated with pyrotechnics. The color red was, naturally, a constant presence throughout the show. Red, Taylor explained, represents the “crazy emotions,” like falling in love and breaking up. “Thank you” she said, “for making my music the soundtrack to your crazy emotions.”
It would take far too long to describe the elaborate costume changes and set changes and dance numbers, the themes of which shifted from Doo Wop girl groups for “You Belong with Me” to the Golden Age of Hollywood for “Lucky One” to a bizarre wind-up toy ballet for “Love Story.” She even did a couple (relatively) solo numbers on a small stage on the other end of the field — but not before being carried through the crowd by two of her dancers ( flanked by some serious-looking bodyguards), high-fiving dozens and dozens of her adoring fans.
The whole thing should have felt a little disjointed and over-the-top, but Taylor’s presence is a palpable, uniting and calming one. Between songs she would gaze into the crowd as though she was really trying to see everyone and she frequently reiterated how unbelievable and special it felt to be performing for a sold-out football stadium. “Come on, Taylor,” I couldn’t help thinking. “You’ve gotta be used to it by now!” But there was no denying a sense of genuine warmth even in the highly controlled context.
For the finale, “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” the stage became an elaborate circus, with Taylor as the ring leader. She conducted the crowd in a sing-along of the chorus, which ended jubilantly in fireworks and confetti. Of course, the idea of paring a song about something so specific — the nitty-gritty of an ended relationship — with that level of pageantry is completely ridiculous. But that’s Taylor Swift. She knows better than most how huge and memorable those small, specific events can feel.