June 9, 2015
If one had to guess which artist could draw a massive crowd of people to Time Warner Cable Arena on a Monday night, it would not take long to guess the hit-maker who captivated an audience of 15,000. Taylor Swift is that musician, and her show proved she has no intention in slowing down her career. And what is the perfect first step of world domination? A global tour, of course. Charlotte experienced the Swift Nation take-over on June 9th and Ms. Swift managed to make the city glow even brighter in her wake. To describe it in the hue of Swift’s show, she turned the Queen City neon.
Despite skeptics, Taylor Swift managed to sell millions of copies of her latest effort “1989” at the end of 2014. This may not sound surprising, as Swift has been a bestseller since the genesis of her career. However, this album was her first purely pop pursuit and her label was prepping her for a failure and subsequently, a fallout in the country music industry. The savvy starlet put faith in her fan base, and not only did the album succeed, but she managed to sell out many stops on her world tour within the first few weeks of the ticket sales. Charlotte was one of those stops, which is not surprising, considering Swift has always had a market in the South due to her country-pop crossover tunes.
The energy in Time Warner Cable Arena was remarkable, even an hour before the opening act. Fans showed up and they showed up early. Even the security ushers were bustling with anticipating excitement. Audience members were of all ages, sharing stories of previous tours and comparing homemade signs. Many dressed up like Taylor herself from various music videos, while others donned that “red lip classic” and all black, which the pop star tends to favor. Everyone, in some variation or other, was channeling Swift; some rather noticeably—even emulating looks from Swift’s ‘You Belong with Me’ days—though others’ looks were less obvious, opting to pay homage to the superstar simply with tee shirts.
The crowd alternated between watching the empty stage and the jumbotrons, hungrily wanting any bit of Taylor they could get. Lucky for them, the big screens played video segments curated by the singer, which included trivia about her personal life and music career, behind-the-scenes looks at music videos, fan videos, and even some interviews. It was a wonderful way to intoxicate the crowd and give them enough TSwift to bide them until she made her glittery entrance.
Promptly at 7:30, the lights dropped and the jumbotrons’ focus shifted from the constant rotation of Taylor clips to the album cover of Vance Joy’s “Dream Your Life Away”. The crowd immediately erupted for the opening act; after all, it brought them one step closer to the headliner. Vance Joy, known for his hit single ‘Riptide’, sauntered onto the stage with effortless, British schoolboy charm. Joy is, musically, a logical follow-up to Swift’s last tour mate, Ed Sheeran, who joined her for the Red Tour in 2013. The crowd immediately welcomed the British singer and he launched into ‘From Afar’, only accompanied by his own acoustic guitar. Joy’s voice rung clearly and euphoniously through the enormous arena; although he is not used to large venues, the singer seemed right at home with his guitar. Throughout the set, he would have assorted background musicians to accompany his solo guitar, but out of the seven-song set, Joy mostly stood his own against the full capacity audience. Ever the charismatic Brit, Joy asked the crowd to raise any devices with light—which he charmingly dubbed “fireflies”—in the air during the spine-tingling ‘Georgia’. The crowd was elated when he did a cover of ‘Stay with Me’ by Sam Smith, which somehow sounded better than the already haunting original. The charming singer closed with his hit ‘Rip Tide’, inciting an entire arena sing-along.
After Vance Joy’s set, it was clear that the audience could hardly wait much longer for the pop phenom. Crowd members stayed on their feet, bouncing around to the music selected by the venue. Finally, the lights dimmed slightly and the music thumped louder. The song booming over the audience was Fine Young Cannibals’ ‘She Drives Me Crazy’, which had everyone dancing, even those too young to know which era that song belongs to. After a couple minutes of good dancing, the lights dimmed more seriously and the crowd knew the woman they had been waiting for was about to come on stage. And appear she did.
Fittingly, the show was opened with the first track of “1989”: ‘Welcome to New York’. Swift, looking radiant in an 80s esque sequin jacket, skater skirt, and her signature red lipstick, rose from below the stage. She stood against an LED simulated backdrop that projected the skyline of her newfound home city, Manhattan. If it wasn’t clear from her album, Swift wanted to prove in her show that she has found the new love of her life, which she details in this opening number. Ever the show-woman, Swift shimmied with exacted dance moves—very unlike her famed, awkward moves at awards shows—and belted with such precision, it was hard to not wonder if she was lip-syncing. She wasn’t.
“Hi, Charlotte!” The powerhouse singer greeted the crowd after the opening number. “I’m Taylor. And one thing you need to know about me is that I was born in 1989.” With this simple sentence, the singer set the tone for the evening; we were about to get a glance into the world of Taylor Swift at a period of major rebirth for her.
She followed ‘Welcome to New York’ with a bonus track from the latest album called ‘New Romantics’. This was an extremely interesting choice on the part of Swift; again, she relied on her fans to be die-hard enough to know the words, despite its non-standard album availability. The audience, of course, sang every word right back to her. The song was sharp, enigmatic, and if people weren’t already on their feet, ‘Romantics’ united them to bounce to Swift’s infectious vocals and relatable lyrics, singing loudly that, “Heartbreak is the national anthem.”
It was clear early on that the production was curated with the star’s innovative tastes in mind. The LED powered screen was cinematic and captivating; every song featured wild graphics or accompanying videos. During ‘How You Get the Girl’, the sixth song of the set, the screen simulated rain and her dancers suspended in the air with Mary Poppins inspired umbrellas. Swift’s pink dress even lit up to complement the city lights that twinkled behind her. The audience members twinkled, too, as they were given LED bracelets that were synchronized with each song and set change.
Every bit of Swift’s show is intended to give her fans a deeper insight into her world. It’s no wonder why her fans feel as if she is their friend; she gives them access like no other pop star today, while maintaining her personal life away from them. To them, she is just the quirky, enigmatic girl who is like them, who also just so happens to sell millions of records. It never feels like she’s hiding anything, though. Between songs, while she was changing costumes or while the set was being changed, the screen featured some of her notable girl friends like Lena Dunham, models Cara Delevingne and Karlie Kloss, Selena Gomez, and the Haim sisters speaking of their experiences with the gregarious and lovable Swift. Even further, Swift gave incredibly insightful anecdotes preceding many of her songs, connecting her audience back to her once again. For an hour and half, every person in the audience felt as if they knew her because she told them of experiences we’ve all shared. After all, she did say that the audience was 15,000 of her “best friends.”
The pop star played an impressive eighteen-song set in two hours and 45 minutes. Every song from “1989” was played, including ‘Bad Blood’, ‘Blank Space’, and ‘Style’. A stand-out of the night was her mash-up of ‘Enchanted’—a song from 2010’s “Speak Now”—and the “1989” song ‘Wildest Dreams’. She expertly wove the two together while donning a ball gown and playing a beautifully extra-terrestrial piano. Swift wanted the show to be purely pop, so she updated older songs to fit her newfound sound. Favorites like ‘Love Story’, ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’, and ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ were reworked to sound more like “1989” than the albums to which they originally belonged. The crowd didn’t mind at all, because ultimately, they were still able to sing along.
Spectacle is the best word to describe the show, and while the whole night was rather remarkable, Swift saved the showstoppers for the end of her set. The song ‘Out of the Woods’, which features Jack Antonoff of Bleachers (who happened to be in the audience), followed the sparkling firework mash-up of ‘Enchanted’ and ‘Wildest Dreams’. Flying paper kites were utilized to match Swift’s lyric “two paper airplanes flying”, and eventually mini copies of those kites rained down from the top of the dome. The LED backdrop emulated wooded scenes, while never outshining Swift herself. Finally, she closed with ‘Shake It Off’, while suspended above the crowd on a raised runway crane. The whole stadium sang their full hearts out, knowing this was likely the concluding song of the evening. The pop star never missed a beat and by the end of the night, no one in the room had their entire voice to describe what they just witnessed.
The evening was cinematic, sparkling, romantic, and empowering—just what Swift dreamed it to be. And just what fans hope her life is actually like. In a world that doesn’t always let love win, it sure felt like it did while Swift shimmered on the massive stage. She is the girl who has become a woman in her own way, while managing to be one of the most successful and talented forces in the music industry. It is clear from Taylor’s show that the 1989 World Tour is not just a tour, but it is an era.
Taylor Swift – Bad Blood ft. Kendrick Lamar