alking up to MetLife’s stadium, a blur of sequins, cowboy boots, friendship bracelets and masses of people singing to the tune of Taylor Swift songs dominate the senses. This is the second night of the towering pop star’s ‘Eras’ tour reign over New Jersey, and the air is palpable with electricity… or maybe it’s just the sunlight reflecting off everyone’s face jewels?
Still, as NME nears the entrance gates and passes security, watching teeny fans going up to adolescent girls in frilly skirts to ask them questions about the lyrics scribbled on their arms, or exchange jewellery like some ancient ritual, the moment’s importance is crystal clear: this is not going to be just a concert, this is a celebratory ceremony, a coming-of-age ritual of sorts.
Swift kicked off the ‘Eras’ tour back in March, finally closing a gap left open in the wake of the pandemic as she released several new albums of original material – ‘Lover’, ‘Folklore’, ‘Evermore’ and ‘Midnights’ – without a supporting tour. But now, two months in, the nationwide jaunt has swallowed up entire cities for weekends at a time.
- READ MORE: Taylor Swift’s ‘Eras’ tour kick-off: top five moments from the star’s transcendent performance
For casual fans, the overwhelming experience from the floor seats is staggering. Of the 74,000 gathered to singalong to Swift’s hits, a quick glance around the stuffed venue shows that most are women between the ages of 17 and 35, with a penchant for over-the-top outfits, and likely, based on the way they recite back lyrics to openers Gracie Abrams and Phoebe Bridgers, most have no issue feeling all their feelings loudly. Regardless of any preconceptions you may have of Swift, you can’t help but smile at the thought of young women feeling safe to unabashedly scream this loud about what hurts.
When it’s time for the main act to take the stage, a large clock appears and starts to countdown while the words to Lesley Gore’s ‘You Don’t Own Me’ pour out of the speakers. It’s hard to tell if you’re catching goosebumps from the women giggling beside you, or if the tingles creeping up your spine are your own, but as the lyrics “You don’t own me / Don’t try to change me in any way / You don’t own me / Don’t tie me down ’cause I’d never stay” an inner shift takes place; when a glittering Swift appears, stood confidently in a studded bodysuit typically saved for Vegas showgirls, you can’t help but return her red outlined smile.
True appreciation for Swift outside of a venue with free-flowing drinks, a bracelet that lights up to match each era of her career she’s playing a song from, and diverse backup dancers that mirror a friendly group of peers you’d definitely have brunch with, comes with context. Whether you’ve known her from her early country crooning, or were drawn in by the Kanye drama, or simply, like this writer, think that the song ‘Delicate’ is one of the best pop songs of all time, you know something of Swift.
But, beyond the Ticketmaster fiascos, and press obsession with her relationship drama, came the re-recording of her early albums, an ownership plight and creative risk that saw her successfully re-releasing her music so she could maintain control of her own songs, her own talent.
With that knowledge as a backdrop, performances of songs like ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ and ‘Bad Blood’ take on new meaning, a reclaiming of not only her emotions but her work. Flanked by newer tracks like ‘The One’ and ‘Mastermind’, the depth of that decision is likely what’s holding some of the fans to the floor of Metlife stadium, keeping them from blissfully flying away between their “I love you Taylor” shouts. Swift’s tour isn’t just about a new album, or a performance of songs her fans know and love, it’s a 17-year journey through a career fraught with massive highs and gargantuan lows, and yet here she is in front of an overflowing audience proving she can take a hit, make a hit, and not slow down.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s easy to hear some of her tracks as saccharine, take ‘Shake It Off’ or even the TikTok-worthy chorus of the excruciatingly well-written ‘Anti-Hero’. But viewed as an entire story, watched for more than three hours straight, her discography seems less painted by moments of easily digestible pop songs or acutely aware indie pop tracks (looking at you, ‘Cardigan’) but a full picture of what it means to be human; perhaps specifically a woman fighting for your right to embody a full range of emotions shamelessly, in tears, sequins, and in tonight, thigh-high sparkling boots.
As the confetti hits our heads, signalling the end of the ritual, Swift holds hands with Bronx-born rap newcomer Ice Spice, who’s here to regale what will likely be a crop of new fans with their ‘Karma (Remix)’, and serves as another testament to the domino effect Swift has in this industry. Like she sings in the much-danced to track, ‘22’, life can be “miserable and magical” at the same time and even more than the cinematic world she creates on stage, with pyro, makeshift cabins and elaborate costumes, it’s Swift herself that embodies that notion, and whether or not you’d call yourself a Swiftie, you can’t help but want to celebrate that.
Taylor Swift played:
‘Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince’
‘You Need To Calm Down’
‘You Belong With Me’
‘Tis The Damn Season’
‘…Ready For It?’
‘Don’t Blame Me’
‘Look What You Made Me Do’
‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’
‘I Knew You Were Trouble’
‘Nothing New’ (with Phoebe Bridgers)
‘All Too Well (10 Minute Version)’
‘The Last Great American Dynasty’
‘My Tears Ricochet’
‘Shake It Off’
‘Karma’ (with Ice Spice)