Last night Taylor Swift had her debut at Wembley Arena, London, and whether it was just Taylor onstage with a piano or guitar or Taylor with her full gamut of dancers, giant inflatable snakes and pyrotechnics, the result was euphorically gorgeous.
Reputation as an album is a much darker offering from Taylor, and it lends itself perfectly for a stadium tour, which was ramped up with infusions of rock to really fill the stadium with energy and electricity. Tracks such as ‘King of My Heart’ were set dressed with huge, interlocking golden snake graphics, an ornate metallic reptile alter (that tilted a nod to ‘Look What You Made Me Do’) and topless oiled male musicians banging on drums, so opulent that Donatella Versace would be envious.
The setlist was cleverly balanced, with Taylor blasting out (and dancing her heart out to) high energy tracks from Rep such as ‘Ready For It’ and ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ (with Gargantuan inflatable snakes engulfing the stage) and seamlessly blending in beautiful cascading numbers such as 1989’s Style and the current album’s ‘Delicate’ and ‘Call It What You Want’ throughout the night.
At times The Queen of Snakes shed her dancers, backing singers and robust set for some quality time with just you (and the tens of thousands of people in the crowd) and this proved just as impactful as her more up-tempo moments. Towards the end, she sat down with her Reputation grande piano to perform a medley of ‘Long Live’ from Speak Now and ‘New Year’s Day.’ As she performed, the beaming smile from previous albums came through the dark lipstick and golden embellished jackets as she took a moment (it ended up being over a minute) to look out at the crowd (complete with earsplitting screams for her.)
She didn’t delve too deeply into her back catalogue, but when Taylor did, the medleys of her current album and ones of past really displayed the synergy of her work and Tay as an artist, effortlessly floating from one album to another, then meandering back again to where she began. The first London night actually got a little more of Reputation as ‘So It Goes’, the only track left off the setlist from her current album, was chosen for the slot where Taylor performs a rotation of her past tracks (she also surprised us with One Direction’s Niall Horan, who came on stage for a bit of ‘Slow Hands’).
When Swift was chatting with the crowd, which has always been present in her concerts, she spoke about her fans being with her for over a decade and thanked them for sticking with her through her leap from country to pop music. Taylor always offers something different when conversing with each crowd – at a Chicago concert earlier this month, Taylor delivered a speech in support of Pride Month in her segue to ‘Delicate’:
“And so this month and every month I want to send my love and respect to everybody who has been brave enough, to be honest about how they feel, to live their lives as they are, as they feel they should be, as they identify. And this is a month where I think we need to celebrate how far we’ve come, but I think we also need to acknowledge how far we still have left to go. I want to send my love and respect to everybody who, in their journey in their life, hasn’t felt comfortable enough to come out. And may you do that on your own time and may we end up in a world where everyone can live and love equally and no one has to be afraid to be vulnerable to say how they feel.’’
Taylor made sure to take in every moment of the show, never dipping her level, her energy or her crowd engagement. The show ended with a full-on Great Gatsby crescendo with Taylor and ensemble frolicking around a tiered water fountain in front of a Daisy Buchanan-esque mansion. There was a festival of fireworks, backdrop changes for ’This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ (which contains lyrics mentioning F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel) mixed with “We Are Never Getting Back Together’.
Taylor took on the stadium tour and everyone knows that when Taylor takes something on, she goes full throttle. Whether it was her dancing on a scaffold cathedral whilst the hymn ‘Don’t Blame Me’ blared out, or the way she took us on a road trip to the canyons for ‘Getaway Car’, you could see everything had been executed to aplomb.
It was, quite frankly, pop perfection.
Words: Joseph Kocharian