The singer-songwriter’s first tour in five years began with an exciting performance that included a whopping 44 songs and an impressive production design, which delighted the fans.
As of Friday afternoon, Swift City had become a new destination in Arizona, with a population of 70,000 fans who were in town for the first show of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour. Some of these fans even marked the location as a place of worship on Google Maps. Swift’s publicist welcomed me to “ERAzona,” referencing a hashtag created by her fans to announce their arrival for what turned out to be a grand celebration of her extensive catalog.
Team Swift is always aware of the online conversation surrounding the artist, as it is impossible to consume her music without engaging in Taylor Swift-related content. Some have even suggested that Swift has created a more authentic metaverse than Mark Zuckerberg, and she has fostered a friendly, intimate virtual relationship with her fans.
On Friday night in Glendale, fans showed up in great numbers, especially since it is a suburb located approximately the same distance from Phoenix as Hendersonville, the town in Tennessee where Swift attended high school for a year, is from Nashville, the heart of the country music industry that played a pivotal role in her early career. The majority of the fans were women and gay men, accompanied by some good-natured boyfriends and husbands, who dressed up in outfits inspired by Swift’s ten albums. These included black leotards from her “Reputation” era, pastels from her “Lover” era, replicas of her 2021 Grammy dress from “Folklore,” rhinestone-studded bodysuits like those seen in the “Bejeweled” music video, and even a couple of men sporting “sexy baby” T-shirts.
On the surface, Swift’s intense relationship with her fans, which she encourages through the use of Easter eggs and rewards, may seem excessive and elicit a skeptical response. However, for those who are immersed in the world of Swift and experience it firsthand, such as in a stadium where she effortlessly captivates the audience for over three hours, the atmosphere is electrifying. This is especially true for those who have grown up listening to her deeply personal music for the past 17 years, and in particular for white suburban women who consider Swift to be their most recognizable icon.
The Eras tour provides an exceptional example of fan service. Those who managed to secure tickets were treated to an astonishing 44-song setlist, which is roughly double the number of songs featured in her previous tours. The setlist, which lasted for over three hours and 12 minutes (the length of the movie Titanic), did not include any mash-ups but did feature a few second-verse cuts.
It was an impressive display of productivity, as Swift has released four original albums since her last tour in 2018, along with two album re-recordings. She showcased a substantial portion of all of these albums in the show. The concert was organized in a color-blocked, outfit-specific manner, with Swift wearing two sparkling bodysuits, a ballgown, two ethereal dresses, a one-legged snake suit, and the outfit from her “22” music video. Swift demonstrated seemingly endless stamina with almost no breaks and managed to pack more into the show than many TikTok speculators had anticipated.
The production of the concert was reminiscent of a Broadway show with its elaborate set changes, ranging from a Folklore cabin to a high-rise office for The Man. The stage was T-shaped with rising platforms, offering ample opportunities for every section of the audience to admire and photograph her. The concert also featured a phalanx of backup dancers and color-synced bracelets for every audience member that timed with the full range of stadium lights. A large curved screen behind her played visuals and staging taken from her music videos, which were not subtle, as is her style.
She used a backing track to help her sing for over three hours. Unlike the heavily choreographed routine of the Reputation tour, this show was more of an enthusiastic acting out of each song by Swift. She appeared to engage in a dead-serious karaoke battle with each of her screaming fans for 44 straight songs, with the exception of a few numbers. Her commitment to each bit did not waver, which was admirable.
There wasn’t much time for talking in between songs due to the extensive setlist, but Taylor still managed to cover all the important bases, expressing her gratitude to the crowd, making witty comments to please the audience, and acknowledging criticisms of her music. Despite the large-scale production, Taylor was able to successfully perform the softer, more intimate songs from her albums “Folklore” and “Evermore” (five and seven songs live, respectively), with the help of the audience singing along.
The concert experienced some problems with the sound, which were likely caused by the difficulty of projecting sound to a stadium filled with 70,000 screaming fans. The sound issues were particularly noticeable during the louder, more intense songs (such as those from Reputation, 1989, and Red), as it was hard to hear her singing clearly over the noise. At one point, the volume on her microphone seemed to fluctuate wildly.
When Taylor Swift performed with just her instrument, it was the best opportunity to showcase her vocal abilities. She displayed this in her acoustic versions of “Mirrorball” and her first single “Tim McGraw”. Additionally, she excelled in the 10-minute version of “All Too Well”, which was the emotional highlight of the evening. However, everyone in the stadium had their favorite song, with some fans choosing one that wasn’t even performed. Taylor Swift’s lyrics are unmatched in scope and dedication, and she emphasized this through her songs from Miss Americana to Mastermind. This marked an undeniably epic start to the Eras era.