Wednesday, June 12, 2013

006 : Taylor Swift : Concert Review

This is a MASSIVE post that I decided to keep in its entirety. All photos are mine! The first video is mine, all the others were found on Youtube. Go like those videos and make the Swifties happy! Or don't. This is long and thorough, and I hope you enjoy it!

OK, I want to start this review by talking about the cost of the tickets. I was in the top tier, far right, and the tickets cost $330 for two. So, for just about the worst seats in the house, it's $165 per person. I know that the floor seats cost $500 and that there were some seats going at the very end for $750.

Y'all, that is patently RIDICULOUS.

I'm not a stadium concert type of gal. I prefer more intimate venues. I like to meet band members at the merch table after the show and get to know other fans. I'm not into deafening screams. I like to see the people playing the music while I watch instead of seeing them on a screen. I'm perfectly content to listen to the likes of Taylor Swift and other ginormously famous artists in my car, on my iPod, and so on. However, this was a birthday gift, and it was definitely a fun and different experience!





Taylor is known for her extravagant sets that transform from forests to castles and include bridges and lots of moving parts. A friend of mine works for IATSE, a union of roadies and stage hands in Akron and Cleveland (and all over). She has worked three Taylor tours, I believe. She always tells me how Taylor has more trucks than any other artist, by at least five trucks. She loaded in for the concert and sent me a text with a photo of her truck and let me know that she was loading a MILLION trucks! (Not really.)

I went in with kind of high expectations, because of everything I'd read about what she generally does. I also knew that she often brought in other acts from the area to do a duet with her. I knew that she'd research the music of the area and perform covers of famous songs from the area. I knew that she hosted a "T-Party," where she'd pick 30 guests from the show and invite them for a meet and greet afterward.

None of that happened.

Entering the stadium was kind of cool. Some of her performance and red carpet outfits were in cases all around the first floor. There was a LOT of merchandise, and I had budgeted for that. So, I bought my t-shirt right away ($40) and we did a round of the first floor to see the costumes that were set up. Also, the fans were totally dressed up and really enthusiastic, as I had expected. We went up and found our seats and waited for the opening acts.

The opening acts were awesome, but also disappointing. They were SO TINY, just big enough for a small club show, and we were trying to watch them from above or on the screens around the stage. But the artists were totally awesome, and we ended up buying cds from both of them. After that, it felt like a really long wait for Taylor to get on stage. There were large, red curtains covering everything. The "music" started with a heart beat, and the fan screams were DEAFENING. I mean, I have never heard screams so loud or high pitched. The heart beat turned into the drumming from her song, "State of Grace," as video screens rose. The curtain dropped, and there was Taylor, fans screaming. She stopped and did this thing, that I think set the tone for the whole experience for me. She stood on the top of her stairs, very specifically, leaned her head to the left and then to the right, encouraging the fans to scream. It was so rehearsed, which I guess I didn't expect.

At this point, I left my seats to go get some photos from a different part of the venue. She went right from "State of Grace" to "Holy Ground". "Holy Ground" had a protracted drumming portion. Drummers came out (maybe rose up from under the stage) and had these large, lit drums. Taylor joined them for drumming, being very melodramatic with a massive amount of hair tossing. This was something that would also happen a lot during the show; hair tossing. Man, that girl LOVES to toss her hair around. There was drumming, flashing colors, and then the drummers rose into the air. She stopped, to give a little speech before going into "Red." The speech was about how we had bought all her tickets in MINUTES and then some comments about her feelings and having a lot of them. Since I had red some reviews of her tour, I had actually read the exact words she said, which was disappointing. I don't like rehearsed speeches meant to seem natural. After the speech, she went into "Red." For "Red," Taylor brought out the gays with some glorious flag twirling! She also brought out her guitarist, a native Clevelander. The first three songs felt very rushed to me, like she needed to get through them, hurry them up, and get them out. The "choreography" felt unnatural and very, very staged.



After the initial rush of the first three songs, the phony speech, the forced choreography, I felt things evened out to a nice pace and felt a little less staged. She did a costume change and came out with, "You Belong with Me," wearing a very sparkly red dress. It was a little interlude. She performed "You Belong with Me" on a raised stage with her back up singers, then the stage went dark. A movie came on the big screen, in black and white, and I knew it was going into, "The Lucky One." The movie contained a large-ish monologue which was fine. It didn't interest me a ton. When the stage lit up again, Taylor was at the top in a gorgeous red gown with an open front, showing red shorts. There were dancers in olden time costumes mimicking fans, paparazzi, and an apparent movie star. I liked this piece and thought it was really theatrical and beautiful. At the end, the stage went dark, and then she reappeared in yet another outfit for "Mean."

Maybe that's why it felt like the pace slowed, because she did three costume changes for three songs! Before performing "Mean," she gave a little speech about being made fun of in high school and thinking that would go away when she grew up, but nope, it didn't. This, of course, led to many cheers, because we all knew exactly what she was talking about and what song she would do! She started off, sitting on the stage alone. She talked to the crowd for a minute, which felt genuine. As she played, the stage lit up and she joined her band in a section that looked like a carousel. From "Mean," she quickly went into "Stay, Stay, Stay." She managed to alter the lyrics and say, "You came in wearing a Cleveland Browns helmet," which was clever and elicited cheers. I enjoyed much of this part, and it felt less fake, though more theatrical. Odd how even without flashing lights and drummers lifted into the air and massive guitar solos, something can feel more theatrical. Maybe it was the costume changes or the actual movie interlude.





After "Stay, Stay, Stay," things picked up. There was a small movie interlude, going through Taylor's life and showing her age for each event/milestone. So, of course, it landed on 22 and she came out to sing, "22." This was a pretty high energy event with her dancers out and she was running around and doing some dancing. She ended the number by "stage diving" onto her own dancers who then lifted her onto their shoulders and carried her, with a security escort, from the main stage to a stage at the back of the floor. It was, kind of disgusting. I thought it was tacky to do a faux stage dive and then walk through the audience, because there were 15,000 people there and this maneuver left the vast majority of them out of the loop. Also, any of the people who paid such massive amounts to be in the pit by the main stage, probably couldn't see anything that was going on. This sort of spectacle that ignored chunks of the audience was a theme in the show. She performed facing forward for the vast majority of the show and only occasionally turned to one direction or the other. Even the opening, with her silhouetted against the red curtains was visible only by those more to the front of the stage. I thought it was pretty obtuse to have such a massive show with such a massive audience but ignore a majority of the audience for the most part.

She was carried to the back stage, which was probably really nice for the audience right up by that stage. I'm sure it was their dream come true. When there, she gave a little speech about meeting a mother and daughter before the show who requested she sing a song, "The Best Day." It was a nice speech, but totally fake, since the entire song was rehearsed and published on the set list. This sort of fakery bugged me. From "The Best Day," she brought out Ed Sheeran and they did, "Everything Has Changed." For this song, the stage rose up and turned slowly, so everyone had a chance to see her (except maybe the pit). After that song, she began, "Begin Again." She remained seated on a stool for "Begin Again" and for the beginning of "Sparks Fly." She stepped onto a platform during "Sparks Fly," and it took her WAY UP, like level with the top tier and across the entire stadium. It was kind of amazing, and I think I would've died, if I had to be on that platform. This was the one time when it felt like she addressed the portions of the audience not right in front of her. She turned and sang to everyone and even pointed to everyone. It was the only point that felt inclusive to me.







After "Sparks Fly," she disappeared into the stage. Her violinist came on and started, "I Knew You Were Trouble," to MANY cheers. I mostly don't care about the rest of her band, which makes me a little less of a Swifty than others. I just care about Taylor. She has loyalty to her band, which is cool, but at the end of the day, she's the one calling ALL the shots (she makes her own managerial, financial, and creative decisions). So, she came out for "Trouble" in a weird costume and proceeded to give a performance that I thought was not totally in keeping with the song. I think the on-stage costume change is a throwback to her previous tours, and she can leave it behind. The dress over a costume was bulky and strange and ill-fitting, so I'd love to see her move on.

Also, there was hair tossing.

Following "Trouble", she went up to the top of the stage, sat down at a red piano, and began, "All Too Well." This is currently my fave song on the album, so I was pretty excited...but this actually felt like one of the most fake performances. She's playing the piano, and singing, but at one point, she beats on the piano while tossing her head and hair back and forth. Later in the song she pauses for dramatic effect, brushing her hair out of her face. Ugh. It just felt FORCED.

After "All Too Well," she disappeared for another costume change. A pair of ballet dancers came out and did a piece that was beautiful. A music box came up in the middle of the stage and various costumed dancers climbed out before pulling Taylor out for "Love Story." "Love Story" is probably my least favorite of her popular songs, so meh. But the piece was pretty elaborate. She disappeared again and returned in yet another costume for "Treacherous." For this song, she kept it pretty simple, even appearing to be barefoot (she had on tights, though) and singing while walking along a platform that rose from the runway portion of her stage. This was the last song before the big finale.










For the finale, she chose, "We are Never Getting Back Together," which I felt was an odd choice. I mean, "Trouble" is far more relevant and huge right now and just feels like a much bigger song to me. Also, she has performed "Never" a few times in clothes similar to what she wore for "22," and I felt like the costumes for "Never" seemed odd...but then again, she's done this for the Grammys and maybe others. Truthfully, I don't always catch Taylor's tv performances, because I don't have recordable cable. I sometimes try to find them online, but the quality is generally what you see in this post, which is not really enjoyable. So anyway, her finale was, "We are Never Getting Back Together."

She came out in a sort circus ring leader outfit and was surrounded by various costumed dancers including a rabbit with whom she seemed to be conversing. She came onto the same platform for "Treacherous," but there had been a cage added, so I knew something big was going to happen. It lifted up and took her out, 50 feet over the audience...

And then there was confetti.

There was so much confetti you couldn't even see Taylor. The platform came down and she slid down it as if her whole stage were a massive playground (which it is, for her). Then she joined her dancers and bowed (with hair tossing), ran up the stairs, and sank down into the stage.

Then it was over. No encore, just gone, get your things, get out, because security and roadies want to close the place down.







So, this was my first (and maybe last) arena concert. I had no basis of comparison for what it would be like, and I didn't realize how different it would be from all the shows I've done. In the end, it made me sad that it cost so much and I was still SO FAR from Taylor. (Y'all, I've even met Little Big Town, because I saw them before they were huge!) I mean, still so sad to be so far from Taylor and still wishing I could just have a conversation with her! But it was very similar to seeing a Broadway show. I guess I liken it to seeing Rent on Broadway. I had seen it so many times in Ohio (at different venues) and when I finally went to see it in New York, I had a broken leg, and I was soaked from the pouring rain, and the theater was raked down then up (creating a dip around the 4th row) so I was actually lower than the people in front of me. But even so, seeing Rent on Broadway was, you know, FUCKING SEEING RENT ON BROADWAY!

So even if I was disappointed with the cost and size and clearly rehearsed portions of the show, it was still SEEING FUCKING TAYLOR SWIFT! So, I wasn't just singing in my car, I was singing along with 15,000 Swifties and WITH TAYLOR! And she liked it too!

Plus, let's be real : seeing Taylor Swift for her most popular album to date is like seeing The Beatles or Elvis. Yeah, I went there, because it's true. Maybe this isn't Woodstock (which is more comparable to the first Burning Man), but this is the most powerful and famous woman in music right now...and possibly the most powerful and famous musician right now. So, this is a huge event, culturally significant! And even if she was so far from me and still tiny, I was there and I saw her, and it was awesome and fun!

Also, I learned that sparkles look good on EVERYTHING; shoes, guitars, tights, even her barstool was bedazzled! So, glitter = happiness, duh.


  1. I could argue that Beyonce is more powerful and famous in music right now ;) lol Arena shows are hit or miss for me. I really want to see Justin Timberlake, but do I really want to spend so much money on a ticket when he's going to look like a little dot on the stage? It's pros and cons I suppose. Though, seeing my favorite bands in the past, it's been great.

  2. Actually, you couldn't : Taylor outranks Beyonce by 5. Maybe next year, though.

    Think of it like this : Nick Waterhouse much better, right? 30 people, and even though he was kind of a douche, we met him and actually watched him and danced to him...also, the other bands too. I much prefer that to spending hundreds of dollars on a show. I'd rather go to Broadway, better experience, because I have no connection to the actors (though even more of a chance to meet them).