The following article is based on Taylor Swift’s concert on Saturday, May 19th, 2018 — the second (and final) night of a back-to-back at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, during her Reputation Stadium Tour.
Generational talents are few and far between, but Taylor Swift is indisputably one of them. She has not just reinvented herself over the last 13 years, but has done so with the steadfast support of her adoring “Swifties,” who have loyally stood by her triumphs and tribulations in the limelight. On the second and final night of her Reputation Stadium Tour stop at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, May 19th, in Pasadena, CA, the energized Swift gave a majestically iconic performance on three stages (a main stage and two additional ones extended further out on opposite sides of the floor), flanked by opening acts Charli XCX and Camila Cabello, surprise guests Troye Sivan and Selena Gomez, and a who’s who of luminaries in the crowd, including Kobe Bryant in the front row.
From the moment the gargantuan, gridded, and adjoined concave rectangular structures compromising the main stage parted open to reveal Swift’s famous silhouette, the fans erupted en masse in a panoramic display of well-deserved pandemonium. This, however, was an evolved 28-year-old Swift, who has not only paid her dues since releasing her eponymous album as a budding country star in 2006, but has been tempered as a result of having been wronged by some celebrity peers, rising determinedly like a Phoenix, seemingly invigorated by the same metaphor (the snake) that was used to undermine her. With overhead fireworks and silos of smoke shooting up from the stage floor – during the first number, “…Ready For It?” – and harrowing flames during “I Did Something Bad,” Swift, clad in a sparkling black one-piece, made it clear that she is a woman on a mission with her spellbindingly confident demeanor and robust vocals.
While she played hits from previous albums (e.g., “Style,” “Blank Space,” “Bad Blood,”and “Shake It Off” with XCX and Cabello), 2017’s Reputation was thoroughly represented on the set list, going into an extra gear with “Look What You Made Me Do,” “End Game” and “King of My Heart,” which saw Swift appear as a prizefighter in blue and gold trim. There were also digital gold and red snakes on the massive screens, and a teeter-totter platform where she and her dancers resided, inclusive of more decorative snakes and a throne, in which Swift ceremoniously took her place in the midst of the rollicking mayhem. To the observer’s eye, this was an edgier, more inscrutable Swift, who moved her body sensually and sinuously to the beats and melodies of her tunes, as if she were possessed by a transcendent calling beyond our Earthly realm.
Yet, even with the take-no-prisoners pall of darkness, not to mention the giant-sized (inflatable) snakes hanging over the sea of humanity at the venue, the Reputation incarnation of this Maleficent-esque Swift proved to be gracefully beneficent after all. She has a rapturously big beating heart underneath her ostensible devilry, which feeds off the love, never the hate, of her fans around the world, and in this case, those in Southern California.
“I love a Southern California crowd; there’s nothing like you guys. I’ve played in this area 41 times, beginning at the Whisky [a Go Go] in 2006. I had 30 people there, and I was like, ‘Yes!’ Now we have 60,000 people here and we’re sold out,” Swift exclaimed.
Despite co-opting some Medusa into her personality, Swift doesn’t turn her “Swifties” into stone by peering at them; instead, she enlivens their spirits and makes them feel “Gorgeous.” Her heart-to-heart talks made every single one of the 60,000 feel liberated, worthwhile, loved, and listened to by their larger-than-life heroine, who could spot each one with their light-up wristbands. There is a tender simpatico and a mutual understanding founded on an unbreakable trust between Swift and her followers insofar that the world-renowned musician is one of them, and whatever status differential that exists is leveled as much as it can be. This is categorically true because Swift shares the same humanly essential commonalities, and is bravely vulnerable, as she was on Saturday night.
“We all like the feeling of ‘Yeah I’ve been through that too,’ whether it’s something joyful or painful. When you come here on a Saturday night and sing the words to me, it makes me feel so good; you’re so amazing for coming. I feel like I’ve been opening up my diary for 13 years, and it’s so cool that you want to read it.”
It is a diary of exchange that frankly goes both ways, which, as Swift was proud to admit, also entails “keeping track of (her fans) online and seeing people’s lives change.” On her end, the diary is made up of an active Instagram account and revealing song lyrics that are viscerally identifiable. Some of these entries are best communicated in raw form, as she did with “Delicate” (while being suspended in a gold basket), and especially acoustic performances of “All Too Well” and “Dancing With Our Hands Tied,” as she strummed her guitar passionately and sang out dulcetly into the breezy air. Moreover, Swift’s piano mash-up of “Long Live” and “New Year’s Day” was also memorable for how she harmoniously intertwined the songs, singing their soft and heartfelt words with a comforting touch. It was a reminder that, throughout the transformations that may come in her career, that she is with her fans through thick and thin. They are, and always will be, Swift’s real friends, not dissimilar from Troye Sivan, who dueted with the pop phenom on “My My My!”, and particularly Selena Gomez, who poured her heart out to her best friend (“She never judged any of my decisions”), stirring the audience into a frenzy with a collaborative rendition of “Hands to Myself.” These relationships are forged on a musically unifying bond with people who will, for example, afford Swift the outlet she needs to take much-needed time off from the rigors of the business and uncover new aspects about herself.
“You’ve been so cool about me changing up my musical style, and so supportive of me changing and trying new things. I always try to listen to you and see what you want,” Swift confided.
Suffice it to say, at the conclusion of the two-hour-and-twenty-minute production, when Swift resoundingly performed “Call It What You Want,” as well as “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” amid a water-spouting fountain and a feverish finale of fireworks, it became clear the concert was everything Swift’s ardent admirers could have ever hoped for and more.
For more information about Taylor Swift’s upcoming Reputation Stadium Tour concert dates, please visit taylorswift.com/events