Welcome to New York! Ish! Taylor Swift brought everything back home the other day, or otherwise to New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, on her 1989 Tour. Never that you do things halfway, Swift renders this a pop show — or in other words the pop show, so far as 2015 can be involved. The whole night became a two-hour pop-blitz spectacle, the spot that the songs retain all of the teardrops-on-my-guitar intimacy of her conception, except blown up into massive electro-warrior emotional avalanches pushing the can’t-even-ometer in the red. This show had all of it: life lessons (“You usually are not the opinion someone who doesn’t know you!”), synth-disco raves, acoustic ballads, explosions, video interviews with your ex cats, sparkle-intensive costume changes, a Weeknd duet and ok last one, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team parading with the crowd to “Style” facing 60,000 screaming fans. That kind of night.
When Bruce Springsteen plays NYC, he loves to joke about how exactly the city’s beloved hometown icons — Sinatra, the Statue of Liberty, the sports teams — are rooted in Jersey. There was a component of that when Swift kicked off back with her new theme song “Welcome to New York,” explaining, “Although we’re in New Jersey, our story opens in New York.” But these songs aren’t really about any particular city much more than they’re about any particular boy — each will take place within the galaxy Taylor creates in the songs, one where everything orbits around one girl’s moodiness, where boys are disposable and cats are keepers, where girlfriends matter and lying about your feelings just isn’t how everything’s done around here. (A handwritten sign taped into a door backstage: “Cats Roaming. Do Not Open.” Only on Planet Tay.) It was the sort of show that could only make emotional sense in the stadium this size.
As always, the hardcore fans were a crucial part on the spectacle, 100 % gear making use of their costumes and glowsticks. The crowd was, as Taylor said, “jumping and dancing and loud and lit up and dressed.” There was obviously a gang of girls because of their birthdates bedazzled for their shirts a la the 1989 logo—2004, 2007, etc—while their moms proudly repped 1976. Two girls with matching lightboards, one saying WE’RE TOO BUSY DANCING along with the other TO GET KNOCKED OFF OUR FEET. A couple of women with homemade Mean Girls-style shirts announcing, “You Can’t Swift With Us.” The fan faves were really the girls carrying giant Starbucks venti cups as huge as they were, while using logo tweaked to STARBUCKS LOVERS and Taylor’s face in the center. That’s the way a Swift show works: You love the members and you love the action.
“We all have different insecurities, different fears, different scars,” Taylor announced. “There are lots of different types of people here tonight. But we’ve got one thing in keeping: When we feel happy amounts of joy or great levels of pain, we utilize music, which explains why we’re here tonight.” The show was obviously a marathon—19 songs, stretching almost to midnight. The new songs, despite their studio sheen, really kick live—especially synth-pop epiphanies like “New Romantics” (where Taylor’s male harem of personal dancers toted her around on the park bench) and “Blank Space.” She rocked a glow-in-the-dark polka-dot ensemble for “How You Get The Girl,” as her dancing boys twirled neon umbrellas and her band staged a very welcome twin-guitar duel. She found her trusty guitar for “Can’t Feel My Face” with all the Weeknd, whose hair may have been the most truly 1989 thing in sight.
She radically revised the oldies, which didn’t stop anyone from singing them. “I Knew You Were Trouble” began using a slow creepy goth-industrial intro — loads with the Sisters of Mercy’s Andrew Eldritch in their vocals! Floodland, holla! — ahead of the drums kicked in and turned it to a rock-me-Amadeus stomp. “Love Story” became a synth ballad, as she whisked throughout the stadium on the magic levitating catwalk. Even better was the hair-metal version of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” that has never-ever-ever sounded this nasty–Taylor in leather on the lip with the stage, performing a perfect version with the Slash guitar slouch, shoulders hunched, hair falling over face. Who knows, maybe Tay can do an full-on Headbanger’s Ball album the next occasion.
And because she’s Taylor, she talked the talk. You have never heard a pop star say “Let me clarify that statement” more times in a single night. It got heavy, like when she confessed, “Real talk, Jersey: I haven’t always felt like I have real friends, or any friends whatsoever.” She gave everyone else her number of friendship requirements (“You need to like me” and “you must want to go out with me,” with assorted codicils and subclauses). She also told us, “If I had my way, everything will be simple for every body. I wish nobody would ever confuse your mind. I wish nobody would wait 2 days to text you back, when you are aware they had their phone together the whole time!” That line got one from the biggest roars with the night.
But the hugest moment would have to be “Style,” when she introduced the U.S. football team, just a couple hours after their ticker-tape victory parade. They looked like these folks were having a blast, strutting along the catwalk, waving giant flags. (After the show they gave her a SWIFT #13 team jersey.) She also got out Project Runway host Heidi Klum, who if memory serves comes from one in the countries the U.S. team aufed inside tournament. (Let the healing begin!) Tay’s been preaching the girl-bonding gospel way too long, it’s not hard to take that portion of her game with no consideration — but that is just a measure of the amount she’s changed the pop-star landscape. For “Bad Blood,” she struck a pose with video comrades Hailee Steinfeld, Lily Aldridge, Gigi Hadid and Lena Dunham — she reveals her girlfriend collection the best way rock bands like Guns N Roses or Great White accustomed to make videos the location where the girlfriends lounge round the soundstage.
(And talking about Taylor girlfriends, a sincere question: have Haim been this good? I wasn’t a devotee going in however opening set was fire, roughing up their pop hits and carrying out a fantastic version of “Oh Well,” through the Peter Green edition of Fleetwood Mac, which sounds sounds so snotty like a sullen-teen-girl anthem — “Don’t ask me what I imagine you / I might not offer the answer that you just waaant me toooo.” Somewhere, Peter Green have to be proud these black magic females have given this song a different life.)
As usual for a Swift show, the quiet moments were some in the most intense, especially “Clean,” “This Love” plus the piano medley of “Enchanted” and “Wildest Dreams,” where she whipped out your piano-hair windmills. One with the highlights was “You Are In Love”—not only a deep cut, but an extra track—where she led the full crowd inside a sing-along. Funny how all of the state-of-the-art computer graphics can’t hold a glowstick on the visceral power of 60,000 fans singing about love pains.
It all ended with “Shake It Off,” with fireworks, confetti and dancing boys in purple Angus Young schoolboy outfits. All night, the Eighties concept took various forms — from your pre-show mix tape (Human League, Toto, Fine Young Cannibals and my girl Tiffany) on the beats. But mostly, it’s from the way she embodies the Eighties ideal of the pop star — Madonna, Prince, Bruce — being an auteur who makes every album, every tour something totally new. Honestly, if Taylor Swift had just done the Red tour once again, plugging inside new songs by incorporating greatest hits, that could have been fine with every body. Taking the easy way would happen to be 100 percent suitable. It just wasn’t what she desired to do. Instead, she wished to push a bit harder and make up a gloriously epic pop mess in this way. What a night.