Two places not typically compared to one another: Longwood University’s Stubbs Lawn and Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field. That said, they have one glaring similarity - Taylor Swift has rocked out both.
Described as “a journey through the musical eras of my career” by Swift, the ‘Eras Tour’ represented a bookend of sorts - a celebration of ten albums, three genres, and seventeen years of music. There is an act saved for each album: "Fearless (Taylor’s Version)," "Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)," "Red (Taylor’s Version)," "1989," "reputation," "Lover," "folklore," "evermore," and "Midnights." While she only hits her debut album ("Taylor Swift") once every so often, the omission of her self-titled album would only be noticeable if she didn’t hit 44 songs over the course of the show, making her way from 2008 all the way until 2022.
Swift started the show in Philadelphia on May 13 as she has done since opening night, with her now-signature clock ticking three minutes prior to the start, evoking recent memories from the "Midnights” era as “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore plays in the background. However, the theming quickly changed with dancers carrying flowing tapestry that would take concertgoers into the "Lover" era. In an almost universally-surprising move, she opens with album track “Miss Americana and The Heartbreak Prince” after the repetition of the lyric, "It's been a long time coming.”
The extensive “Lover” era act is a precursor to a theme throughout the show, Swift giving her “4 new members to our musical family” significant blocks of time during the show. These eras, “Lover,” “evermore,” “folklore,” and “Midnights” (in that order during the show) are split up by “the old Taylor(s),” as she says in her 2017-hit “Look What You Made Me Do.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she was unable to tour the first three of those albums until now.
That said, that doesn’t mean her back-catalog isn’t given proper time. “Fearless” sees three songs (“Fearless,” “You Belong With Me,” and “Love Story”) that brought fans “back to high school.” Then, after “evermore,” Swift hits her 2017 album “reputation,” including an incredible transition between sleeper-hit “Don’t Blame Me” and the previously-mentioned hit “Look What You Made Me Do.”
Following this, she takes fans back to 2010 and 2012 with the “Speak Now” and “Red” eras, including her widely-regarded magnum opus “All Too Well (Ten Minute Version).” Then, following “folklore,” she introduces the “1989” era of 2014, invoking some of the biggest hits of her career in “Style,” “Blank Space,” “Shake It Off,” “Wildest Dreams,” and “Bad Blood.” Then comes the acoustic section, and then finally, 2022’s “Midnights.”
In short, ‘The Eras Tour’ was a spectacle. It was a three-hour long celebration of not only Taylor Swift, but the fans that helped her become one of the biggest artists in the world. ‘Eras’ was her most elaborate tour yet, resembling more of a theater production than one of her previous concert tours. With each era, the stage completely transformed into entirely different themes and acts, feeling like a completely different concert than the one you were experiencing just 20-or-so minutes ago.
What accomplished this more than anything is the concept of worldbuilding, through costume changes, props and physical effects, and the extensive use of visuals. During multiple eras of the show, Swift would quick change into another outfit: as simple as putting on a sparkly blazer for a performance of 2019-single “The Man,” to the progression of outfits from an oversized shirt and boa to a sparkly bodysuit and garter from “Lavender Haze” to “Anti-Hero,” then to “Midnight Rain.” Throughout the entire show, incredible thought is put into her costuming. Her outfit matches the era she’s in, from the snake-wrapped bodysuit for “reputation” to a sparkly-beaded crop top and skirt for “1989.” Her performance of “Enchanted” featured a stunning ball gown, serving as a nod to the song’s fairytale ball-like theming.
Furthermore, the props, physical effects, and set-design of the show represented intense thought into each musical era that Swift has gone through. What is perhaps most remarkable, however, is that Swift made the show “taylor”-made for her fans - using many references that her fans can appreciate for being nods to her past eras, and concert effects that the general public can appreciate for being incredibly well-put together. The highlight of these references include the performance of the previously-mentioned song “Look What You Made Me Do,” in which she taunts old versions of herself shut in glass boxes, including outfits from past music videos and every former era. Also included in this is the set for 2014-hit “Blank Space,” in which she invokes the music video as dancers destroy a projected car with golf clubs on the rising platform and ride bicycles around the stage. In the realm of set-design, Swift invokes her 2021 GRAMMYs performance by building the “folklore” cabin and performing around that for the entirety of that era. This is all without mentioning Swift diving directly into the stage prior to the “Midnights” set and ‘swimming’ through the stage.
‘The Eras Tour’ marks some of the greatest visuals of Swift’s career, with both screen videos and stage projections constant throughout the entire show. Different eras featured different visuals, all of which matched the general theming of the era. For “Fearless,” the stage lit up with a sparkly guitar (coupled with jump spins) reminiscent of that album's 2009-10 tour. For “reputation,” a snake slithered from the back screen, up the stage, and then slithered through the crowd using light up bracelets.
Also part of what makes ‘The Eras Tour’ so special, each and every show is unique to the night and city they’re performed in. Going back to the previously-mentioned acoustic section, Swift specializes each night of the tour by picking two completely different “surprise songs” for every crowd. Philadelphia’s Night 2, the night I attended, saw performances of “Forever and Always” from “Fearless,” and “This Love” from “1989.” Furthermore, every night sees different monologues during the show, typically before her acoustic section and her performance of “champagne problems” from “evermore.” She has also customized shows by note changes during songs, most commonly “the 1” from “folklore,” and even the announcement of “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” during the acoustic songs set in Nashville.
That said, the speciality of each show isn’t entirely because of Swift. Her fans, the army of “Swifties,” find different ways to make shows unique to them. Nashville started the crowd project of waving phone flashlights during Swift’s performance of “marjorie,” a song she wrote as a tribute to her late-grandmother Marjorie Finlay. While not unique to each show, fans join the performance with crowd chants, some of which date back to the 2018 Reputation Stadium Tour. Fans shout “1 2 3, Let’s Go B*tch!” at the beginning of “Delicate,” and shout Kendrick Lamar’s line “You Forgive, You Forget, but You Never Let Go!” during Swift’s performance of “Bad Blood.”
Potentially the most impressive aspect of the tour, however, is the concept. Taylor Swift is nearly seventeen years into her career, charting 11 consecutive albums at #1 (eleven studio albums, two of them re-recorded) at the time of writing. Only a few artists can claim the repertoire that Swift has, not even taking into account the fact she re-peaked in sales figures sixteen years into her career. This is all without mentioning her many attendance records, selling out stadiums for consecutive nights in every city on the tour. In Philadelphia, she sold out around 70,000 seats in the stadium - but that isn’t even the most impressive part. Over 20,000 fans, all without tickets, partied outside the stadium in the parking lot of Lincoln Financial Field. This is a level of fame almost unthinkable by most in the music industry today.
All in all, Taylor Swift has put on the highlight of her career with ‘The Eras Tour.’ Putting on a career victory lap tour at 33 is no small feat, and Swift has done it with the production quality of Broadway plays, combined with visuals unheard of in a stadium tour. It is clear this isn’t a farewell tour, simply closing the first chapter of her career as she expands her ever-growing base of fans and support.
I give ‘The Eras Tour’ a 5/5, and I cannot wait to see Swift’s career continue to flourish to a new base of fans.
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