When Taylor Swift released her second album, Don’t fear, back in 2008, he was a bright-eyed singer-songwriter hoping to make it big in Nashville. Fifteen years later, it’s clear she’s made it big everywhere. The 33-year-old sings in an arena of 70,000 people. Every last one of them shares the feeling.
The five years since Swift’s last tour have been her best yet. He has added four albums to his “family”: 2019’s boyfriend2020s Folklore And always, and 2022s midnights. At the same time, following a very public battle with his former record label, he has been busy re-recording his first six albums as part of a plan to restore Master Records.
Her “Eras Tour,” designed as a journey through that staggering back catalog of 10 albums, shifted from the country to synth-pop of her self-titled debut. 1989Then subdued folk and alt-rock Folklore And Always. Throughout the tour’s opening night, audiences often felt like they were catching up on Swift’s past, present and future. Spanning three hours and 15 minutes, the 44-song set shows why the concept of “Era” is so integral to who she is. Each episode represents a particular shift in his artistry.
There is a palpable joy at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Clothes are emblazoned with hand-drawn lyrics; Faces are bright with lustre; Hands are hidden in Swift’s lucky number 13. I mean the fans feel like the concert is “coming home”. Swift admits she’s a little overwhelmed herself: “I try to keep it together all night.”
Many of Swift’s biggest hits make the setlist, of course, but there are also surprises. Like his opening on “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince,” a hazy synth-driven track. boyfriend, Inspired by Swift’s political disillusionment. In it, she portrays herself as a high school student dealing with bullies as a metaphor for right-wing empowerment in America. Deeper album cuts appear in the form of “Hostile Affairs,” a haunting track about Swift battling her inner emotions, and a stunning acoustic version of “Mirrorball,” which she dedicated to her fans. Then, “Vigilante S***” (“I don’t dress for women/ I don’t dress for men/ I’ve been dressing lately. For revenge”).
Each era change is marked by both a costume and set 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 cases: a nod to a period when she struggled to reconcile her sense of self with her public image. For autumn songs, insular Folklore And always, The stage is preceded by trees and a cozy, moss-covered room. At one point, the stage is empty except for a long wooden table she has arranged for two people. It’s sparse and chilling, mirroring the stark sound of “Put It Up” where she calls out for another person’s attention.
Swift says it closes on “Karma,” a tongue-in-cheek nod to how she rose above the tabloid headlines, feuds and rivalries that once circled her like vultures. Dressed in a sparkly fringed jacket and accompanied by a troupe of dancers, she looked as liberated as ever. “Ask me why I’m so faded/ But I’m still here,” she sings. The answer is there for all to see.