Back in 2008, when Taylor Swift‘s second record, Fearless, came out, she was a young singer-songwriter with big dreams of making it big in Nashville. After fifteen years, it’s clear that she’s famous everywhere. The 33-year-old singer tells 70,000 people in a stadium, “I don’t know how it could get any better than this.” Every single one of them feels the same way.
Swift has been very busy in the five years since her last tour. She has added four records to her “family.” These are Lover, Folklore, and Evermore, all of which will be released in 2019. Midnights will be released in 2022. At the same time, she has been busy re-recording her first six albums as part of her plan to get back the master recordings after a very public fight with her old record label.
Her “Eras Tour” was meant to be a trip through her huge back catalog of 10 albums, from the country twang of her self-titled debut to the synth-pop sound of “1989” to the quiet folk and alt-rock sounds of “Folklore” and “Evermore.” During the first night of the tour, Swift’s past, present, and future often feel like they are all being told to the audience at once. In the setlist of 44 songs that lasts 3 hours and 15 minutes, she shows why the idea of an “era” is so important to her. Each part shows how her art has changed in a certain way.
You can feel the joy at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. There are hand-painted lines on the costumes, glitter on the faces, and Swift’s lucky number 13 on the hands. Fans I talk to say that going to a show is like “coming home.” Swift says she is slightly nervous: “I’ll be trying to hold it together all night.”
There are many of Swift’s best hits on the setlist, but there are also some surprises in how she starts with “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince,” a hazy synth-driven song from Lover that was inspired by Swift’s disgust with politics. On it, she played herself as a high school student dealing with bullies as a metaphor for the right-wing getting power in the US and the heartbreak and despair that came with it. Deeper album cuts include “Illicit Affairs,” a haunting song where Swift fights with her own feelings, and a unique acoustic version of “Mirrorball” that she dedicates to her fans. Later, they get to scream along with some of her most cutting lyrics on “Vigilante S***”: “I don’t dress for women/I don’t dress for men/Lately I’ve been dressing for revenge.”
When an age changes, both the clothes and the set change. The 2017 song “Look What You Made Me Do,” marked her return after a long break, shows different versions of Swift in glass boxes. This is a nod to when she struggled to balance who she was and how the public saw her. The stage is taken over by trees and a cozy, moss-covered house for songs from the fall and island-themed Folklore and Evermore. At one point, the location is empty except for a wooden table she sets up for two people. It’s sparse and cold, like the sound of “tolerate it,” in which she begs someone to listen to her.
Swift ends the album with “Karma,” a tongue-in-cheek reference to how she eventually rose above the tabloid stories, feuds, and rivalries that used to circle her like vultures. She looks as free as ever when she dances with her dance group, wearing a sparkly fringed jacket. She sings, “Ask me why so many go away, but I’m still here.” Everyone can see the answer right there.
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