Olympia Hall, Paris. September 10, 2019
Midway through Taylor Swift’s The City of Lover show at Paris’ Olympia Music Hall, her band and dancers disappear off stage. The backdrop, which had been flashing with vibrant graphics, fades to black, and an acoustic guitar is handed to the pop star.
“There are a lot of the songs on this album that’s just come out that I’ve never played live before, and I was thinking about how I’d really like to play some of these songs for the very first time,” Swift tells the crowd. “And I was thinking maybe the best way to do it would be just playing the songs acoustic the way that I wrote them.”
She launches into a stripped-back version of ‘Death By A Thousand Cuts’, transforming it from a glittering, summery bop into an earnest country-pop tune. ‘Cornelia Street’ follows, with Swift revealing that she had written it in the bathtub (“Just for context,” she adds), and then ‘The Man’ – each tune performed, for the first time, in the way that she had composed them.
It’s a million miles away from last year’s massive Reputation World Tour. She went all out on that tour, playing to tens of thousands of people each night (the Olympia Hall only holds a couple of thousand) and turning up the drama with bombastic stage design. There was immaculate choreography, costume changes, pyrotechnics and giant inflatable snakes. But tonight she strips it back. This acoustic moment, delicate and emotive, recalls Swift’s early releases– and it’s hard to imagine her sounding better.
This show is the first full-length concert Swift has performed since releasing her seventh album ‘Lover’ a few weeks ago, and it feels like a celebration. “In my mind, I look at this [concert] like a release party,” she tells the audience midway through.
You couldn’t buy tickets to this show. Instead, fans from 37 countries around the globe were able to win access through various competitions, meaning the crowd is full of diehard Swifties kitted out in homemade merch and brandishing handwritten signs.
“We had to buy a physical [copy of an] album, and then fill in a reason why we loved Taylor Swift,” Felix, a fan from Hong Kong who won a golden ticket, tells me. His reason? “She changed my life. I was encountering some mental health issues, and her songs really helped me overcome those challenges.”
The result of having fans from across the globe is an electric atmosphere. The lyrics to each song – even those that have only been out a few weeks – are bellowed back to the singer, and revellers hush one another while Swift is talking so they can hear her better. Other personal touches include a ginormous screen showing messages that fans had written, and LED wristbands that flicker and flash in sync to the music.
At one point, Swift even waits a minute and a half for the cheers to stop before she can move on to the next song. And she returns the favour to her fanbase, scattering rarities and debuts throughout the concert.
Besides the acoustic renditions of ‘Lover’ tracks, Swift throws in a few career-spanning fan favourites. She takes ‘Red’ on its first outing in over a year, giving the song an emotional spin as she performs it on a grand piano. ‘All Too Well’ is another highlight, with Swift again on the keys. Meanwhile, ‘Love Story’ – which Swift says she “wrote when I was 17 years old, sitting on my bedroom floor” – brings the warm glow of nostalgia to her set.
It isn’t all ballads and acoustic versions, though. ‘Blank Space’ and ‘I Knew You Were Trouble‘ see Swift swagger around the stage, and the glorious, funk-laced ‘Style’ still absolutely slaps. After the jubilant country ballad ‘Lover’ (which Swift refers to as “probably my favourite song I’ve written at this particular moment in time”) and then chart smash ‘Shake It Off’, Swift skips off stage. No encore, but that doesn’t bother fans, who excitedly begin to dissect every moment of the show.
Both a thank you to her fanbase and a celebration of how far Swift has come since releasing her debut album over a decade ago, The City of Lover concert was a triumph. On her previous album, Swift was concerned about her ‘Reputation’ – keep doing shows like this and she needn’t worry one bit.
Taylor Swift played:
I Knew You Were Trouble
Death By A Thousand Cuts
All Too Well
You Need To Calm Down
Shake It Off