While Taylor Swift is mostly pop these days, there’s a hint of country, and hint and history are enough to warrant her inclusion on this blog. I have always liked Taylor’s songs when I’ve heard them on the radio – she has a great voice and is responsible for some of the catchiest tunes of the last few years. I never went as far as owning an album of hers, well, not until I bought Red and Speak Now World Tour Live just recently, in preparation for seeing her in concert.
It was an interview in Maverick Magazine which got me interested in finding out more, and then watching her performance at CMA Fest with Tim McGraw and Keith Urban of Highway Don’t Care. In fact that song has fought its way up to the very top Tim’s Two Lanes of Freedom, deposing the fantastic Annie I Owe You A Dance. So, with an increased fascination with Ms Swift, I booked tickets to see her perform at The O2 in London this past Monday, the 4th of 5 such dates at this venue.
I’ll admit, I was a little worried before the gig, as I knew her fans were very, err, enthusiastic! I had visions of being among a throng of noisy teenagers not able to hear a word. My concerns were unwarranted, as not only was the crowd a bit older than I was expecting, but the music could easily be heard above the crowd, who were all very well matured, and just really really happy. Taylor Swift is the first pop act I’ve seen live, so I wasn’t prepared for all the costume changes, set alterations and dancers, but wow – what a show it all added to.
Taylor herself was pretty spectacular, and this is coming from a guy who is fast approaching his 40th birthday. Her voice was flawless, her stage presence was amazing and she had the crowd in the palm of her hand from start to finish. I’ve been to a lot of concerts over the years, but never before have I seen 20,000 people come together in appreciation and adoration of an artist like they did for Taylor Swift. Young people get quite a bad rap from media these days, but to see so many in one place showing so much passion for an artist and the music she producing was heart warming.
Taylor’s one of those artists who plays pretty much the same set on the whole tour, and given the complexity of what goes on, I can understand that. She’s in good company though, I’ve seen bands like Whitesnake, Iron Maiden, The Who and The Beach Boys do exactly the same for years, and they didn’t have flying platforms! What his meant is that I could make a playlist of these songs and familiarise myself with her set, which actually enabled me to sing along at times – go me!
One thing I loved was to see her playing instruments during so many songs, and whether it was guitar during Red, banjo during Mean or Piano during All Too Well, she did so effortlessly. Make no mistake, Taylor Swift has bags of talent, and not just on the instrument playing side of things, as she writes her own material too. She also made sure to include all sides of the venue, as she took off on flying mini platforms, strutted down side isles and bravely walked down a very thin piece of ascending stage as she sung Treacherous – how fitting. At the tender age of 24, she wasn’t fazed by anything, and always looked composed, whilst giving 100% in her multi-faceted performance.
The only thing that I would have changed would be for her stories to be a bit shorter – more music and less talking would be my preference. However, for her target audience it was perfect, as these are fans who want to get as close as they can, and know as much as possible about the international sensation that is Taylor Swift. The knowing more even got to me at one point as I felt ever so slightly emotional during the ‘through the ages’ montage of clips before 22. Hey, I defy any parent to not get mushy during those kind of segments!
Every gig she brings out a surprise guest, and on Monday we got Emile Sandé as they both sang Next To Me. Not my first choice I have to admit, and especially when they got Ellie Goulding the next night. Still, it seemed to go down well, and it was only one song, and then we were back to just Taylor as she sang I Knew You Were Trouble, and the whole arena erupted, myself included. When she ended the show with We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together I was so glad I’d made the late decision to go. Taylor Swift is an incredible live performer, with a supporting cast of singers, dancers and musicians who together put on arguably the best show in live music today.
We are 5 days on and I’m still playing my Taylor Swift Red Tour playlist daily and thinking back to Monday’s concert fondly. I realise that her heartfelt chats with the crowd were no doubt meticulously planned and rehearsed, but in a world full of hate and anger, she seems to be a shining light of hope and inspiration, and as far as role models go, there are few better in music these days. I’ve since ordered the rest of her back catalogue of albums and hope to see a CD/DVD release of the Red Tour. I went in to that gig as a bit of a Taylor Swift fan, and came out as a bit of a Taylor Swift fanboy.