With Taylor Swift’s name pervading the air waves since the announcement of her Eras Tour, with mentions of her only intensifying since its launch on March 17th in Glendale, AZ, and most recently, the Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) re-release on July 7th, one might ask what all the fuss is about; that is, until they witness first-hand what is the greatest modern tour by any artist, and a confirmation that Swift undeniably now stands among music’s pantheon of giants — joining Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Madonna — as a headliner for the ages. The hype and cultural zeitgeist that Swift symbolizes is by no means a social-media construct, or a phenomenon limited exclusively to her fans; it is as sweepingly seismic, real, and deserved as it gets.
On Thursday, August 3rd, Taylor Swift earned the lifelong appreciation of over 70,000 Swifties with her Eras Tour debut in the United States’ No. 2 market, Los Angeles, at SoFi Stadium in what will represent the last leg of her tour in the U.S. — at least until October 2024. Despite the knowledge of five more sold-out dates on the horizon at Sofi Stadium, Swift gave every ounce of herself to 45 songs spanning a three-hour-and-thirty-five-minute set, divided by nine musical epochs in her life (her self-titled debut album is conspicuously left out), as a mass panorama of glowing admirers sung fervently alongside a 33-year-old superstar who, if she wasn’t heralded as one before, is now the complete package as a musician, vocalist, and dancer.
However, before a two-minute countdown clock emerged on the expansive, rectangular screen (the centerpiece of the set), summoning Swift’s seemingly magical blooming out of billowing sheets, two talented acts, both returning to their hometowns, warmed up the crowd with six songs each: the 23-year-old Gracie Abrams and HAIM who previously opened for Swift during the 1989 World Tour in 2015.
Abrams, who began with “Where do we go now?,” impressed with her smooth vocals, accented by a subtle rasp, which conveyed a precociousness that demanded to be paid attention to. In addition, during “Block Me Out” and “I miss you, I’m sorry,” Abrams demonstrated her musical versatility on both the guitar and piano, connecting with a sea of people, many of whom were still filing in.
Subsequently, the charismatic Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim immediately presented their electric sound with “Now I’m in It,” which rhythmically delighted with power chords and a bluesy component that inspired joyous handclapping. “Want You Back” left an impression with its keyboard synthesizer and rapid-fire singing; “Gasoline,” one of Swift’s personal favorites, underscored the sisters’ consummate musicianship; and finally, “The Steps” highlighted Danielle Haim who impeccably negotiated both her drum set and the song’s vocals, simultaneously. HAIM has both a sweetness and a hardened edge about them, which contributes to their lasting appeal.
At about 8:08 p.m., once a behind-the-scenes featurette on the “Bejeweled” music video concluded, fans were alerted to Swift’s pending arrival, causing the volume in the stadium to feverishly crescendo, topping out at a staggering 115.6 decibels, only a few digits off from the pain threshold, for the first appearance of the pop sensation. Ecstatic delirium filled Los Angeles, highlighting not just a commanding icon who can manifest raucous cheers with a mere glance or point of the finger, but an enterprise that has no weak links. From the band, which was primarily situated on the mainstage, to the back-up singers, as well as the choreographic, costume, set, lighting, and sound designs — not to mention a camera crew that adroitly shifted around the proceedings — every element blended seamlessly to comprise the ultimate concert experience.
Dazzling in her silver sequined one-piece, Swift transported everyone back to the 2019 Lover era, which was scheduled to have its own tour before the pandemic dashed those plans. “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” amounted to the perfect choice for her set list’s first song — exemplifying Swift’s “long time coming” to a live setting, storytelling gifts, and a larger-than-life presence as the best of Americana lore. “Cruel Summer” had the ardent attendees howl the bridge as their Capital One-sponsored wristbands radiated red, white, and blue hues. Not long after, a deliciously satirical kiss of her bicep preceded Swift’s “The Man” — an anthem cogently uncovering male-female double standards, which was further augmented by a makeshift office set and dancers in business-casual suits.
Multicolored lights emphasized the splendor of “You Need to Calm Down” as Taylor bellowed “let me see your hands” to her acquiescent devotees. Before the album’s titular song, Swift spoke at length to the audience for the first time, welcoming L.A. to The Eras Tour, and how each of her hits has been informed by discrete stages of her life over 17 years. “I’m looking out at this generous, stunning, exhilarating crowd,” Swift observed. “We’ll be going on this journey one era at a time; how does that sound L.A?”
Then, with a pink acoustic guitar in tow, Swift phrased every lyric of “Lover” with immaculate diction, each syllable resounding beautifully inside the acoustics-friendly venue. Following a tuneful take on “The Archer,” a waterfall of golden pyrotechnics presaged the Fearless era.
Now with a glittered guitar, Swift performed side by side with her lead guitarist, Paul Sidoti, who proudly watched his friend spin gleefully as her voice echoed the album’s eponymous song with an ebullient, crystal clarity. Swift’s playful question of “Alright L.A., are you ready to go back to high school with me?” invited an excitement bordering on transcendence as longtime adherents lived vicariously through the specter of Swift as a still-figuring-it-out 18-year-old with “You Belong With Me.”
“Love Story,” notable for its percussion and roving white laser lights, rounded out this intrepid section, as Swift continued to galvanize with her every move.
As images of ice thawed to usher in spring, Swift, astonishing as ever in a canary dress, and flanked by the Haim trio, performed the first song illustrating the 2020 album with “no body, no crime” in what was as enthralling a collaboration live as it is on the album. This segued into a gratifying chilliness as Swift, instantaneously clad in a dark green cape, sung pleasing harmonies with her onstage Salem witch-like cohorts as resplendent orange orbs took center stage.
In an affecting moment, Swift paid homage to her maternal grandmother, Marjorie, an opera singer from 1935 to 1952, with a song of the same name. Next, with projected intertwined branches arched over her, Swift plied a verdant piano for “champagne problems” after confiding that many of her hits double as a “coping mechanism,” which are fortunately met with an empowering validation by her empathetic fans. Of course, with the Pennsylvania-born figure intently focused on each note, “champagne problems” was as stirring as expected, earning an extended ovation. Thereafter, with the virtuous Karina DePiano at the keys, the astronomical artist sung and skillfully acted out “tolerate it,” glaring at and crawling across to a male performer (Raphael Thomas) sitting opposite a wooden table.
Applause reverberated throughout when ominous snakes hissed and slithered on the screen, revealing the darkest of Taylor’s eras and reminding of the last time she toured through Southern California as “…Ready for It?” incited a euphoria. This was especially the case when Taylor walked out in a black ensemble with emblazoned sparkling red snakes and a microphone with an ornamental serpent wrapped around it. Minutes later, “Delicate” invoked the famous “1, 2, 3, let’s go b____” in what was a cathartic and refreshing release for the crowd who had been dying to say the virally popular chant.
“Don’t Blame Me” had Swift, who ascended via a trusty platform, in fine form as she nailed the renowned high notes. Afterwards, “Look What You Made Me Do” epitomized not only the agility of the dancers — materializing as varied characters of Taylor’s past in glass rectangular boxes — but Swift’s effortless motor control, which stood out as a choreographer’s dream.
In her awe-striking white/lavender tulle ballgown skirt, Swift intoned each word of “Enchanted” with a sonorous projection as her top-notch hoofers, in garments of a similar ilk, whirled poetically across the stage.
“Long Live,” Taylor’s ode to her supporters, saw the leading lady lovingly enunciate the lyrics — particularly the apropos “One day, we will be remembered” — and effortlessly transfer from her lower to upper register as she strummed a gorgeously teal koi fish guitar.
A dancer clothed in red mimed whimsically, readying the audience for the spirit of 2012 as Taylor came out in a stylish “A Lot Going On at the Moment” t-shirt and black bowler hat, which, following “22,” was heart-rendingly bestowed to Bianka Bryant, the daughter of the late, great Kobe who, in 2015, presented a banner to the in-demand juggernaut for selling out 16 straight shows at the arena formerly known as Staples Center. Suddenly, Taylor declared herself to L.A. in formfitting red-and-black attire as she conjured the eagerness of the throngs who reveled in the exclamatory breakup song, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
Geysers of smoke puffed toward the ceiling with the acute “I Knew You Were Trouble,” prior to the 10-minute masterclass on songwriting and performing, “All Too Well,” which was worth the price of admission alone. In a ravishing red robe and starry black guitar at the hip, Swift captained a roller coaster of sentiments tangibly felt by every audience member as she eloquently told each chapter of her triumph, the short film for which has drawn acclaim for not only the song’s evocative nature, but the directorial flair led by its progenitor.
In a flowing white gown, Swift lushly sang “the 1” while resting on the grassy roof an artsy upstage cabin, with a chimney to boot. The pastoral aesthetic, which sprouted in Swift’s mind when she “started writing folklore two days into the pandemic” also emphasized the performer’s predilection for telling narratives not just about herself, which “can be tiresome,” but about fictional characters and their arcs. The idyllic sounding “betty” is among these personae cunningly fashioned, the in-person rendering even more redolent of the ideal woodsy escape, with Taylor on guitar in the cabin and her band acoustically supplementing her below.
“the last great american dynasty” proved itself as an underrated number as dancing couples in formal wear swayed about before the surreally soulful “august” came after Taylor’s hint of “L.A., what month is it?” A tremendous transition to “illicit affairs” signified a serious urgency as Swift, on her knees, powerfully asserted “Don’t call me ‘baby’” as the audience fixated on every word. “my tears ricochet” continued this solemnity ahead of “cardigan,” which left most in a state of breathlessness in response to Swift’s ballerina-esque elegance.
The mood and tempo took an energizing turn with “Style,” as the magenta-adorned Swift (with matching boots) soared vocally and punctuated her smash hit with “Take me home.” An expeditious switch to the uber-popular “Blank Space” had all 70,000-plus standing and pumping their fists in unison. The multiplatinum merry-maker was also remarkable for a staging that included glow-in-the-dark bicycles and golf clubs.
When “Shake It Off” emerged, it became clear that Swift’s energy was paradoxically flourishing at an exponential rate, perhaps feeding off the frenzy of fans who indubitably got down with “this sick beat.” “Wildest Dreams” left an impression with Swift’s deft navigation of wide-ranging pitches and the synchronized wristband lights refracting off every corner inside the Inglewood stadium. Finally, “Bad Blood” spotlighted Taylor at her most self-assured as she sashayed with unbridled confidence, underlining each lyric with undiluted determination.
Performing downstage, Taylor strummed “I Can See You” (Taylor’s Version from Speak Now) for the very first time on the tour, garnering shrieks from the crowd who realized how special the song choice was.
The magnificently haunting “Maroon” (from Midnights), which was played on a flower-painted piano, had commensurate import for its listeners despite having been exhibited earlier in the tour run. The two unannounced songs solidified the realization that, as much as she flourishes in a setting with stellar production values, Swift is capable of being just as effective in a stripped-down context, with only her inimitable voice and instrument of choice.
It was only suitable that Ms. Swift end her set list by diving into her latest original album. As colossal cloud props were carried and stuck on the ends of ladders, “Lavender Haze” thrilled with its melodic catchiness — and again corroborating Swift’s prowess as a constructor of choruses, bridges, and lyrical premises. “Anti-Hero,” Swift’s longest-running number-one song, had a video of a blown-up version of the elite celebrity traipse through a digital city as the real-life person sang a better rendition than what is on the record. The portentous track intriguingly closed with the “monster on the hill” possibly becoming the heroine who, with her head turned over the shoulder and hands steadfastly placed on her hips, channeled the audaciousness of Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
Umbrellas were opened onstage for the silky and aurally abundant “Midnight Rain,” which surprised with a quick change for its protagonist. “Vigilante Shit” warranted roars of approval with a sensual choreography centered around searing teases using seated chairs before Taylor’s brazen cross-legged pose to cap the number.
As if there was any doubt, “Bejeweled” did “make the whole place shimmer,” and “Mastermind,” identifiable by its domino dancers and Swift’s otherworldly stamina, implied there is a highly intelligent and relatable woman behind the brand. Last, but not least, Swift bookended her collage of well-publicized eras with her 45th song of the evening, “Karma,” which was more reminiscent of a “see you later” than a doleful “goodbye.” The Eras Tour, and its finale, is tantamount to a spiritual foray for its participants who are able to receive comforting reassurances from the universe through its appointed mediator, Taylor Swift.
Overall, even if you discount the music (inclusive of a massive discography of 212 songs), presentation, hundreds of millions of albums sold (including the three re-recorded ones thus far), billions of streams, innumerable awards, honorary mayor and governorships, altruistic bonuses totaling a reputed $55 million for her employees, and the claim that her tour has helped stave off an American recession, the indefatigable Taylor Swift is a force to be reckoned with — a statement that applies to both today and centuries from now. Her indelible legacy can be likened to creative seeds being planted, giving rise to the sturdiest tree; pain, peace, and an accumulated wisdom through the years have been the nutrients that have swelled an incontrovertible influence that will loom over the pop-culture landscape forever.
For more information and updates on upcoming cities/dates of Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour in the U.S., please visit taylorswift.com/tour-us. For international cities/dates, visit taylorswift.com/tour.