Taylor Swift promised “a journey through all of my musical eras” when she launched her Eras Tour at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, Friday.
That’s a lot of ground to cover — 10 hit albums, four of which have been released since the conclusion of the Reputation Tour in late 2018.
But she managed to make it look easy, enjoying the journey as much as the Swifties in attendance did while revisiting her catalog one era at a time in a marathon set that ran more than three hours and still left fans wanting more.
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Gayle and Paramore opened for Taylor Swift’s first Eras Tour concert
A clear contender for the title of the most successful artist of her generation, Swift was forced to pull the plug on Lover Fest, the tour she had planned in support of 2019’s “Lover,” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that took everybody off the road in 2020.
That helped make this perhaps the most anticipated tour of 2023, and the excitement in the stadium before she even took the stage after opening sets by Gayle and Paramore was undeniable.
There were songs from her earliest albums, reminders that her journey felt a bit more country when the world first got wind of her prodigious talents.
There were songs from “Red,” the transitional album on which she managed to rebrand herself so brilliantly with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and the synth-pop revival that followed with the brilliant “1989.”
There were songs from her pandemic albums — “Folklore” and its understated sister album, “Evermore.”
And she brought us up to date to close the set with tracks from last year’s “Midnights.”
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The newer albums got more stage time than the albums she recorded in her teens and very early 20s.
But as much as that suggests she may feel closer to the newer songs, you never would’ve guessed that the way she was throwing herself into vocals as impassioned as “Enchanted” or the vulnerability she flashed on the single that launched her career, an understated “Tim McGraw.”
And she definitely seemed like she was feeling 22 while singing “22,” a euphoric performance that had her doing high kicks like the Rockettes with her dancers before taking it up another notch with a joyous “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
There’s a reason those 10 albums are among the biggest-selling records of the past two decades. Nearly every song in Friday’s set was a hit on some level, from “You Belong With Me” and “Tim McGraw” to “Anti-Hero” and “Lavender Haze.”
But Swift’s enduring popularity is based as much on the connection she’s built with her fans as it is on her unerring knack for coming through with records people want to hear.
There’s a rapport she’s nurtured through the years, and that was very much in evidence throughout the night.
As the audience roared its approval in response to her opening song, she stood there soaking in the applause before telling the fans “I don’t know how to process all of this and how it’s making me feel right now.”
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‘I can’t even go into how much I’ve missed you’
The stage show was designed to reach the back rows of the stadium with a breathtaking blend of artful set design — that “Folklore” cabin was cottagecore gold — and film projected on the massive screen behind the stage.
There were countless costume changes meant to complement each era, a crew of dancers flanking Swift at nearly every turn and riding bicycles straight out of “Tron” on a show-stopping version of “Blank Space.”
But Swift was every bit as good at playing to the back rows of that stadium with that connection she’s been nurturing this whole time.
Not quite an hour into her performance, Swift asked the fans, “Is it just me or do we have a lot of things to catch up on?” Noting that “it’s been a really long time since I’ve been on tour,” she said they’ve “added four new members to the family” since that last tour, introducing them by name as “Lover,” “Folklore,” Evermore” and “Midnights.”
“I can’t even go into how much I’ve missed you,” she added, “because there’s no way to verbalize it.”
It’s doubtful any Swiftie left State Farm Stadium feeling that the singer hadn’t verbalized exactly how it felt to reconnect with every single person there.
It came through loud and clear when she interrupted herself in the midst of trying to explain how much she values that connection to say, “I’m trying to tell you I love you and I’m babbling.”
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Taylor Swift’s opening acts: Gayle and Paramore
Gayle welcomed early arrivals with a spirited opening set that bristled with punkish abandon. She covered Alanis Morissette’s iconic breakup song “You Oughta Know” before bringing her set to a crowd-pleasing finish with her TikTok-driven breakthrough “Abcdefu.”
Hearing the stadium crowd sing along to her lyrics, she broke down in tears, saying, “I can’t believe this is happening to me.”
Hayley Williams of Paramore was just as thrilled to be there, sharing a heartfelt anecdote about being approached at a Grammy party in 2007 by a woman who said her daughter was also from Nashville and just starting out and asking Williams to look after her.
That woman was Taylor Swift’s mother. Rocking a black pleather miniskirt and matching jacket with bright red boots, Williams led her bandmates in a hit-filled performance that crashed the gate with “This Is Why” and only eased up on the energy just long enough to hit us squarely in the feels with “The Only Exception.”
They may not be the likeliest of tour mates but it felt right in the moment, seeing the Swifties go wild for highlights as explosive as “Misery Business,” “That’s What You Get” and “Ain’t It Fun.”
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Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour set list
- “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince.”
- “Cruel Summer.”
- “The Man.”
- “You Need To Calm Down.”
- “The Archer.”
“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” album:
- “You Belong With Me.”
- “Love Story.”
- “’Tis The Damn Season.”
- “Champagne Problems.”
- “Tolerate It.”
- “… Ready For It?”
- “Don’t Blame Me.”
- “Look What You Made Me Do.”
“Speak Now” album:
“Red (Taylor’s Version)” album:
- “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
- “I Knew You Were Trouble.”
- “All Too Well (10 Minute Version).”
- “Invisible String.”
- “The Last Great American Dynasty.”
- “Illicit Affairs.”
- “My Tears Ricochet.”
- “Blank Space.”
- “Shake It Off.”
- “Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version).”
- “Bad Blood.”
Wild card — a different acoustic song each show
“Taylor Swift” album:
- “Tim McGraw.”
- “Lavender Haze.”
- “Midnight Rain.”
- “Vigilante (expletive).”
Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.
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