It would be impossible to nail down the most thrilling moment of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour opener: when she resurrected the spirit of Bleachella for a rock rendition of “Look What You Made Me Do”? Turned a stadium into a snow globe during the 10-minute version of the cinematic masterpiece “All Too Well”? Took cues from Tom Holland’s Lip Sync Battle choreography for Rihanna’s “Umbrella” during “Midnight Rain”? Did a burlesque-meets-Britney Spears’ “Stronger” chair routine during the revenge fantasy anthem “Vigilante Shit”?
It was all a lot to take in— and not just for the audience.
“I don’t know how to process all of this and the way it’s making me feel right now,” Swift told the crowd. It makes sense that it’s all quite challenging to grasp — it’s been roughly five years since she last toured, and a lot has changed since: Swift has released four albums, two re-recordings, starred in two movies and announced (and cancelled) a festival, Lover Fest. And for the past three-plus years, there’s been a pandemic.
Since 2018, being unable to process the singer’s prolific output in a live setting has been a devastating loss to fans — and to Swift herself. So her grand return to the stage in Glendale, Arizona, where she kicked off her Reputation tour back in 2017, felt particularly meaningful — a long overdue group therapy session for nearly 70,000 people donned in Swift-themed attire, such as “bejewelled” tops, glittery dresses, tulle princess gowns, and flannel. All of them found catharsis last night in being able to live out 17 years of their fave’s music career.
The wait for the pop singer’s return — and even the Ticketmaster drama — was undeniably worth it. In three hours and 15 minutes, Swift pummeled through 44 career-spanning songs. So to call Swift’s Eras tour a concert minimises the production — it was a musical odyssey teeming with nostalgia, heartbreak, sensuality, rage, and joy.
Paying homage to her roots was paramount: she went “heavy on the Nashville” her first night back onstage, with singer-songwriter GAYLE and pop-punk outfit Paramore opening for her. It paid off as she went all the way back to her own beginnings — just Swift at a piano singing her debut single, “Tim McGraw.”
Touring, of course, isn’t anything new for Swift. Her showmanship is unparallelled. But since her 2018 Reputation tour, Swift has levelled up in all senses of the word: strengthened vocals, spicier choreography, camp, and seamless era transitions that will have any social media battles about setlists calm down. Yes, of course, there’s always one more song Swifties will wish was on the set list, but with the Eras tour, satisfaction was more than guaranteed.
Beginning at the Lover house in a gem-encrusted one-piece, Swift announced it was time for the first bridge of the night. Against a backdrop of purple-pink skies and dancers in tie-dyed parachutes, she finally got to belt out the pristine pop hit “Cruel Summer” to a crowd who had been biting their nails for the past three-plus years, waiting to shout “I don’t want to keep secrets just to keep you” back at her.
After strutting in a sparkly blazer to “The Man,” she broke out a pink acoustic guitar for “an old-fashioned love song” (“Lover”) and the sweeping ballad “The Archer” before the Lover house burned down and cut to the golden magic of the Fearless era where she swapped her glittery getup and sang some early country-tinged hits such as “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story.”
Any fans’ worries about whether or not evermore would be a part of the set were quickly put at ease with a jaunt into folklore’s sister album. “It’s an album I love despite what some of you say on TikTok,” she quipped before deadpanning with a wink, “I’ve seen it, I’ve seen all of it.” In a flowy marigold dress, Swift sat at a moss-covered piano and delivered a spellbinding performance of “Champagne Problems” and four other tracks which included “’Tis The Damn Season,” “Willow” and “Tolerate It,” where she crawled and danced across a dining table. An added bonus was hearing a cathartic snippet of the exquisite “Marjorie”, which took the air out of the crowd’s lungs.
It wasn’t long until Swift abandoned the ethereal forest for hissing snakes and the immovable attitude of her red-and-black shimmering boots hitting the ground as she entered her Reputation era. What came next was the antithesis of evermore — explosive anthems like “Ready For It?”, “Delicate” and “Look What You Made Me Do”, which featured a bevy of caged Swifts in different eras. But the standout from the set was “Don’t Blame Me” which filled the stadium with an elevated intensity and booming gospel chorus before she memorably propelled from a platform during the climax of the track.
Swift opted for a jarring transition following that part of the evening — she returned to the stage in a lavender fairytale gown for the sweeping ballad “Enchanted,” a one-song tribute to Speak Now. If this is the one homage to her third album on tour, it’s more than worth it. She quickly turned back time to when she was “22”, recreating her look from the music video in a black bowler hat and with a T-shirt emblazoned with “A lot going on at the moment”, riffing on her cryptic Instagram captions implying she’s cooking something up (“Not a lot going on at the moment”).
The Red era set was filled with gratitude from the singer for fans giving her 2012 album a second life with her 2021 re-recorded version. The centerpiece of this era — and perhaps the entire show — was the 10-minute version of “All Too Well”, which encapsulated the magic of a Swift performance with paper snow cascading down around the crowd.
What followed was a six-song jaunt into folkloric territory — a return to the woods for a breezy performance of fan favorite “August”, a stunning acoustic performance of “Betty”, which she introduced with an anecdote about teenage love triangles and a haunting performance of “My Tears Ricochet” that featured a funeral procession and stunned the crowd. Swift’s swagger took over after she pivoted to 1989, rolling through hits like “Style” and “Wildest Dreams” and highlighting some of the more technical aspects of the show by bringing literal heat to different parts of the stadium with fire during a booming “Bad Blood” and bringing her dancers and their neon golf clubs along to smash an animated car channelling the actual “Blank Space” video.
Before heading into her final era, Midnights, Swift announced that she planned to perform a different acoustic track each night of her tour, a surprise move that will keep fans guessing. In Glendale, that song was the dreamy “Mirrorball” — fans will likely get to hear some of their favourite deep cuts on future dates.
Soon enough, she was sporting a purple fur coat surrounded by glowing lavender clouds to perform her latest Midnights single “Lavender Haze”. Against a Godzilla-like version of herself, Swift performed her No. 1 hit “Anti-Hero” and continued to immerse fans in the moody Midnights universe. When Swift hit “Mastermind” and she reached the bridge “No one wanted to play with me as a little kid/So I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since/To make them love me and make it seem effortless” the palpable voice crack was even more heartwrenching than on the album — the gratitude for getting the opportunity to share her music live with her fans again wasn’t lost on her.
It was a Swiftian spectacle that was “Taylor”-made for her diehard fans — the work of a pop mastermind who is a storytelling savant at the top of her game and whose greatest hits are still to come.
“I can’t even go into how much I missed you,” she told the audience. I can’t even verbalise it.” Neither could her fans. She had a marvellous time ruining all of us – in the best way possible.