Pop powerhouse Taylor Swift is on her second visit to our fair country having graced our shores as part of her 1989 World Tour three years ago, flaunting a larger than life stadium show that somehow entertains and inspires without completely losing those moments of intimacy and connection Swift fans treasure.
Swift wisely showcases a couple of strong female leads in her support acts, evident in the incredible stage presence of NZ based sibling duo Broods. Georgie Nott and the band don ensembles screaming 90s nostalgia as she strides about the stage in a pink fluffy hemmed dress belting out “Bridges” and “Heartlines”. The opening acapella lines of “Free” off album Conscious highlight Nott’s beautifully coloured voice as it echoes around the arena whilst recent electronica release “Peaches” has the crowd in a rapturous state. The band seem completely jazzed about touring with Swift, Nott stating “This is the biggest stage we’ve ever been on! Have you been waiting your whole life for this? So have we!”
A sweltering 35 degree day gives way to a chill in the air and the first drops of rain hold off as Charli XCX’s crew place curious green bulbous props on stage that turn out to be hiding the band’s instruments. Swift’s mega stadium gear includes two 100 foot tall screens perfect for splashing funky graphics during Charli XCX’s crazily high energy performance to a now heaving crowd. A super engaged audience sing and bounce along to “Boom Clap”, “Break the Rules” and “Boys” as Charli XCX shakes the place with her sassy attitude laden voice and commanding presence. Finishing the set with “Fancy”, punters give the song as much swagger as its trumpeting bass can afford.
Decked in sequins, tutus, snakes and royal crowns, Swift’s fans are a mass of positivity and creativity and it seems not even the threat of an impending thunderstorm can dampen that. A snappy performance by both supports make a 40 min rain delay feel lengthier but Swift exhibits true professionalism. A real trooper, she gets out there opening with the spectacle of smoke and lights that is “…Ready for It?” followed by “I Did Something Bad”, in the downpour. Keeping onstage through most of her costume changes she ends up just as drenched and frizzy haired as the rest of us and we love her all the more for it.
Covering 13 tracks off the new album Reputation, hilariously awkward tune “Gorgeous” is the perfect setting for Swift to pay homage to her female back-up singers and dancers, each one flashing up on those ginormous screens as they are introduced. Given the extent of Swift’s backlog it’s unsurprising that the night produces a number of mash-ups including “Style/Love Story/You Belong With Me”, a spine tingling performance of “Long Live/New Year’s Day” and grand finale “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together/This Is Why Can’t Have Nice Things”.
The show’s immersive experience is executed seamlessly and made up of three parts – the LED wristbands each person receives on entry which light-up and flash to the beat of each song. Flames and pyrotechnics shot off to accentuate parts of the performance and props/theatrics associated to themes in Swift’s albums. “Look What You Made Me Do” triggers off the rise of a freakishly gargantuan inflatable King Cobra and Swift’s mode of transport between three stages is a Tinkerbell-esque fairylit cage for “Delicate” and the head and spine of a Cobra for “Bad Blood”.
In terms of highlights “Shake it Off” gives Swift reason to pull Charli XCX and Broods back on to join lead vocal whilst monstrous snakes sway over the crowd. The magical moment arrives when everyone’s LED bands erupt in a rainbow of colour making the arena look like electrified hundreds and thousands have been strewn all over it. “Long Live” and a rare but welcome hail back to her country roots “22” showcase the popstar’s talents as an adept multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. It’s this change in pace and acoustic element to the set that makes the performance feel more intimate and special.
It’s not an easy feat to make a few seemingly non related themes come together at such a large scale. Swift’s creative team have done a great job of meshing the concepts of dark industrialism with the grace of the Gatsby era and mystery of egyptian iconism. More impressive though is the star herself pulling off unwavering stamina, unfaltering vocal prowess and heartfelt showmanship all the while embracing the uncontrollable forces of nature. I’m sure a lot of folk have something to say about Swift’s reputation but whether the old Tay is dead or not, she still remains unapologetically herself.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Taylor Swift performed at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on 2nd November 2018. She wraps up her Australian tour at The Gabba in Brisbane on 6th November 2018.