When Taylor Swift released her second album, Intrepid, in 2008, she was a bright-eyed singer-songwriter hoping to make it big in Nashville. Fifteen years later, it is evident that she has succeeded everywhere. “I don’t know how it gets any better than that,” the 33-year-old sings in a stadium of 70,000 people. Each of them shares the sentiment.
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 Lover2020s Folklore And Always, and 2022 Midnights. At the same time, she has been busy re-recording her first six albums as part of her master recordings recovery plan, following a very public battle with her former record label.
His “Eras Tour” was conceived as a journey through this mind-boggling catalog of 10 albums, from his first country twang to his self-titled debut to the switch to synth-pop on 1989then to the hushed folk and alternative rock of Folklore And Always. Throughout the tour’s opening night, it often feels like audiences are being caught up in Swift’s past, present and future. In the 44-song setlist that spans three hours and 15 minutes, she shows why the concept of “period” is so integral to who she is. Each chapter marks a specific change in his art.
There is a palpable elation at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The costumes are adorned with hand-painted lyrics; the faces are shiny with sequins; the hands are covered with Swift’s lucky number 13. The fans I talk to say the concert makes them feel like they’re “coming home”. Swift herself admits to feeling a bit overwhelmed: “I’m going to try to stay the course all night.”
Many of Swift’s biggest hits feature on the setlist, of course, but there are some surprises too. Like the fact that it opens on “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince”, the hazy synth track of Lover, inspired by Swift’s political disillusionment. On it, she introduced herself as a high school student treating bullies as an allegory of the right-wing gaining power in the United States, and the heartache and despair that come with it. Deeper album cuts appear in the form of “Illicit Affairs,” the haunting track on which Swift battles her inner emotions, and a striking acoustic version of “Mirrorball,” which she dedicates to her fans. Later, they get the chance to sing along, screaming some of his sharpest lyrics on “Vigilante S***” (“I don’t dress for women / I don’t dress for men / Lately, I dress for revenge”).
Each era transition is marked by both a change of costume and scenery. “Look What You Made Me Do,” the 2017 single that heralded her return after a long hiatus, sees different versions of Swift inside glass boxes: a nod to a time when she was striving to reconcile his sense of self with his public image. For songs of autumn, islander Folklore And Always, the scene is dominated by trees and a cozy cabin covered in moss. At one point, the stage is bare except for a long wooden table that she sets up for two people. It’s sparse and cold, mirroring the austere sound of “tolerate”, where she pleads for another person’s attention.
It’s telling that Swift ends on “Karma,” a wry nod to how she finally rose above the tabloid headlines, feuds and rivalries that once surrounded her like vultures. . Dressed in a shimmering fringed jacket, joining her troupe of dancers, she looks more liberated than she has ever been. “Ask me why so many people fade / But I’m still here,” she sings. The answer is there for all to see.