If there’s one word or phrase I would use to describe Taylor Swift’s “1989” World Tour, it would have to be… unreal. That is the only thing that kept popping into my mind with each performance, each surprise and every big moment that took place in the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. on Wednesday evening.
I started seeing Taylor Swift perform as an opening act for Brad Paisley back in 2007. She was new to the country scene and was just 17-years-old, with only two singles on the radio, “Tim McGraw” and “Teardrops on my Guitar.” Swift didn’t start headlining until 2009 with her “Fearless” album, because she wanted to wait and do it right, unlike most artists today, who tend to rush into it, only to burn out quickly. She planned every detail of the tour, even designing the stage. From there, Swift’s star only started shining brighter and with every production, it just continued to grow from dancers and lighting to graphics and other elements that would captivate an audience and tell a story in a different way.
Swift has always been known to outdo herself from the last thing she’s done, and this album, and now show, is no different. This is the first time that Swift has toured as a pop star phenomena and she didn’t disappoint. But, really, did anyone think she would?
While we missed part of Vance Joy’s set, because we had been standing in line at Taylor Nation to take a picture, we came in as he was singing his most well-known song, “Riptide.” My friend, Marisel, and I have seen him perform a couple times, so it wasn’t a huge deal to see him again. I think he is a fantastic songwriter and musician, but his style is more fitting for coffeehouses and smaller venues. His true essence and feel seems as though it gets lost in the overwhelmingness of a stadium or large venue such as Staples Center, especially as people are still finding their seats and getting settled in. But, I still think he’s fantastic and hope this tour brings more exposure to his music career.
Haim, on the other hand, came to rock…And they accomplished that very task. The LA-based sisters are like a blast from the past, and yet timeless. They look as though they came straight from the 70s, with music and a flare that sonically comes from the 80s. They didn’t sing my favorite from the album, which was “If I Could Change Your Mind,” but did sing quite a few songs with, “The Wire,” “Go Slow,” “Running If You Call You My Name,” and of course, “Forever.” Because they came to rock, there were even just several minutes of solid jam sessions with Alana on electric guitar, working that catwalk, playing to her heart’s content. The crowd was feeling it, and so were Marisel and I. We were playing on our invisible drums and dancing with them. Based on what we saw that night, we seriously want to see just a show with them when they come back to LA.
Then, it was Taylor Swift’s turn. We began our story in New York, much like the album starts off with. The sights and sounds of The Big Apple are apparent throughout the arena and transport the audience to Taylor’s now beloved city. We then heard the echoes of “Welcome to New York” and the goosebumps appeared on my arms, as Taylor came showed up in the middle of the stage.
While it might have been off to a slower start, it would appear that it’s done so purposefully, so that people have a chance to jump on board, because the rest of the evening doesn’t leave much room to catch your breath. From there, Swift is off and running with songs from the rest of the album, including “New Romantics,” “Blank Space,” and what could be considered a sexier version of “I Knew You Were Trouble,” which starts off with just Swift’s voice as she sits on the catwalk and seems like it would be playing in the background for a preview of “Scandal” as red lighting lit up the arena and smoke shot out from the side of the stage later in the song.
Swift stopped to talk with the crowd a bit and pointed out the banner she had just received in Staples Center for selling out more shows than any other artist who has played there. She said that because we are always such a generous crowd, there would be “epic surprises” as a thank-you. She then kicked into “I Wish You Would,” which still had everyone on their feet, rocking out with glow sticks and singing to every word, as lasers beamed from the stage.
The cool thing about this tour is just how it is a reminder of female empowerment; not needing a man, but finding happiness on your terms and the way Swift involves her best gal pals, including Selena Gomez, Lena Dunham, Lily Aldridge, Cara Delevingne, Jaime King, Abigail Anderson and the Haim sisters. Throughout the show, videos flash on the screen of how they met Taylor and what friendship means to them, as well as Taylor (trying) to hold Meredith and Olivia without getting clawed terribly.
The sets aren’t quite as elaborate as the tours in the past, with grand staircases or a giant fairytale castle, but there are still so many Swift-oriented details that are evident everywhere. Stories are still being told, but this time in an even more personal way or like something like a scene out of a movie, especially during “How You Get The Girl.”
Then, came the first surprise of the evening, because the crowd had held up their end of the bargain of keeping up with the cheering and clapping…”It’s time, it’s really time,” Swift said before announcing the guest. Everyone was on the edge of their seat, wondering who it was going to be. She continued by saying, “The person about to come onto the stage is a multi-talented performer who is pretty much good at anything she does. She is beautiful and funny and sweet and talented and intelligent, and one of my best friends.” She also mentioned that this singer had the “song of the summer,” and had never performed it in front of a live crowd. “Los Angeles, make some noise, because Selena Gomez is here!” The crowd erupted into applause and cheers, and Selena Gomez appeared to sing “Good For You,” with Taylor.
Gomez exited the stage and Swift moved on with the rest of the show, taking a trip back in time to sing one of her older songs. Wednesday night’s show was “Mean,” and while I wished it might have been from further back, like her first album, I was still happy to hear a bit of her country side again. Swift’s catwalk also plays a very versatile part in the show, as it lifted from its spot and was high above the crowd with a small balcony around the front. Swift then launched into her speech just before “Clean,” and while I’d watched several clips from various shows and had seen it written and quoted all over Tumblr, I still teared up as she started talking about how we are not our mistakes, and as I looked over at my friend and her cousin, their eyes were also glossy with tears.
Looking at you, one of my favorite things about this tour is that I decided I wanted to light everybody up, I wanted to illuminate them. One thing I love about that is that I’m not looking at this vast, endless sea of darkness that screams and dances, but you can’t really see it. I can see all the things that you do and I love it. You think I can’t see you up there, and that’s incorrect. And so because of this, because I can see every single one of you, I start thinking about you individually and your backstory, like if you’re back at school yet or if you have work off tomorrow or if you’re here with your friends, or how long it took you to make the costumes you got where you’re like wrapped in Christmas lights. If you’ve got, like, glitter and puffy paint all over your house because you’ve made signs, yup, looking at you (looking at people in the pit who were showing their signs). Then I start thinking about other things, like the fact that maybe you traveled a really long distance to be at this particular show. And then I think about the fact that maybe it’s a possibility that you might’ve listened to my music in really high high times in your life and really low moments in your life. ‘Cause that’s what we do isn’t it? That’s why we’re all here, when we feel extreme pain or extreme joy, we turn to music and that’s why we’re here in this arena together. That’s the one thing we’ve got in common. Looking at you, it’s impossible to pick one age group or one possible group to talk to, because the coolest thing I’m looking at you, is that everybody is at a different place in their life, everybody’s got different hobbies, individual sets of hopes, dreams, wishes, fears, doubts, regrets…all of it. And I guess I just look at you, and I never want you to go through anything bad ever, and I know that’s so naive. I guess I look at you and I know how tricky happiness can be to find in 2015, because we have so many ways of looking at what someone else has going on and maybe feeling like our life comes up short or feeling like maybe other people have it all together and we don’t know where we’re going with our life. Or feeling like we’ve got all these insecurities and we’re just walking around the world, and hoping that no one else can see them, like ‘God, how long am I gonna be at this party before people realize I’m not cool?’ ‘How long am I gonna be dancing before people start laughing at me?’ All that stuff. And I guess what I wanted to tell you is that, God, you are not someone else’s opinion of you. You’re not someone’s comment on your Instagram. You’re so much more than that. This is coming from someone who loves the internet, ‘cause it gives me a chance to talk to you and it gives me a chance to know you even if you live far away. But, the one thing that I want is for you to not get hateful comments or terrible, terrible criticisms. I don’t want anyone to ever tell you that you’re not what you should be, but that’s how life is, and we go through and we try to do the best we can. But, all I’m saying is there are enough people that are cruel and mean and critical of you, if you can possibly just be kind to yourself as much as you possibly can, that would make me so happy. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake, don’t focus too much on your regrets, learn from them. I think sometimes in our heads, we get this idea that there’s like an invisible record and we get strikes against it when we mess up, and that’s just not how it works. We learn lessons from the time we mess up, no one has a spotless life. If you consider yourself damaged or tarnished because you’ve made mistakes in your life, that’s just not how it is. I think it’s the opposite. I think if you make mistakes and you learn from them, that makes you wiser and stronger, and greater for making those mistakes in the first place, don’t you think?”
She then explained that she wrote the song “Clean” when she was learning not to let the opinions of others get to her and how she was learning to be nicer to herself, as well. “And to be honest, LA, all I care about these days is what you think about me, not people who don’t know me.” Swift’s performance of “Clean” is almost like a moment of healing or clarity. It’s a moment of letting go of past relationships, failures or mistakes. Because those things do not define us. It’s about moving forward in spite of those things. It also led to a semi-group hug with my friends and I. It was a beautiful moment. It’s easily a crowd and fan favorite.
Taylor then sang a brand-new remastered version of “Love Story,” and I have to say that it’s pretty impressive that you can take a song you wrote at 17-years-old and completely change it up and make it your own for this point in time. It’s kind of mind-boggling.
Finally, came surprise number two…In which Taylor explained that this artist had only ever played coffeehouses and had never been in an arena like this before. I was thinking, oh, well then, I doubt I’ll probably know this name. Then she introduced PHOEBE BUFFAY (of “Friends”), well, Lisa Kudrow. She then proceeded to sing “Smelly Cat” and it was easily one of the greatest moments of my life, and something I never imagined that I would see in-person in my lifetime. And the fact that most of the arena knew “Smelly Cat” in its entirety was pretty awesome in and of itself. I don’t think I’ve ever screamed that loud.
Until guest number three that is. I had seen a tweet earlier, while waiting in line at Taylor Nation, that said “TAYLOR AND JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE PERFORMING MIRRORS TONIGHT.” I was trying not to get my hopes up with that one, but when she started describing this particular artist, it all seemed to be adding up to Mr. JT. When she finally ended with him being her favorite artist, we all knew who it was going to be, and the arena lost their minds. It was something for the books, as everyone sang along and waved their arms in the air to one of my favorite JT songs, “Mirrors.” Seeing the sea of people all sharing in this beautiful musical moment was something I will never forget.
The concert kept rolling after that with one of the latest singles, “Bad Blood,” a killer rock version of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and finally slowed it down at the piano for a bit, chatting with the crowd saying, “you aren’t kind of my favorites, you’re absolutely my favorites” and that we should “record every memory that happens to you tonight,” because that’s what she was doing. “I won’t always get to be on tour and I won’t always get to spend these incredible two-and-a-half hours with you at night and get to sing with you and dance with you, and when I have bad days or like, really low self-esteem days, this night is what I’m going to play back in my head and I needed you to know that.”
The very final song of the night was “Shake It Off,” and I couldn’t help but think back to that day on the set of the “Shake It Off” video when Taylor had just announced to a very limited group of people that this would be her first official pop album, and she was really excited about it. I couldn’t have guessed all that was to follow, though I should have known because the Taylor Effect has been known to do some crazy things in its time. So, I danced for that moment and all of the moments that I’ve had to shake things off in between. All of it brought me to that very night, shaking it off with friends and Taylor Swift.
“She lost him, but found herself and somehow that was everything,” was shown on the screen as the lights came up. Life isn’t about finding the right guy, it’s about finding yourself in the process.
As Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun” played and the crowd started filing out of the arena, I couldn’t help but think about what it’s like to be Taylor Swift. How does one process a show (or five) at Staples Center or the other stadiums and arenas night after night? I was having a hard enough time wrapping my mind around the evening. Heck, I still am! More than any other tour, Swift seems to be at such an ease with herself and talking with the crowd. She’s always been a pro at entertaining, and though genuine, it can often come across a bit structured or formulaic.
“She’s hard to keep up with,” my friend Nancy stated on the car ride home. As she went on, she explained that it was because her performances and surprises are so powerful . In fact, it’s hard for a lot of people to keep up with Taylor Swift, and that’s why she’s one of the top entertainers of our time. It’s hard to beat her. She’s innovative and constantly evolving.
Because I am a hardcore Swiftie, I generally knew the set list, the costume changes and what props were used for what, but seeing it in person completely changes the game. Her shows are a visual peek into her mind – what she daydreams about and the way she sees the world. It is a very colorful place to be, and it never gets boring. Taylor Swift is not only a performer and songwriter, but a force to be reckoned with. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.
That’s all for now,