Taylor Swift delights fans with throwback song from debut album on ‘Eras’ tour

Taylor Swift delights fans with throwback song from debut album on ‘Eras’ tour

Some people measure their lives in years, relationships, or milestones. I measure my life in Taylor Swift albums. With the advent of the record-breaking Eras Tour, it’s become clear that I’m not alone.

I spent the evening of my seventh birthday sandwiched between my mom and 20,000 teenage girls. With a toothless smile and a sparkly “13” drawn on my hand, I watched in awe from the nosebleeds of Madison Square Garden as a blonde 21-year-old danced across the stage in an array of glitter-fringed dresses and ball gowns. I left the Speak Now World Tour irreversibly indoctrinated into the cult of Taylor Swift.

As years of my life elapse and once sharp memories blend together into a haze of personal history, I find myself uniquely able to recall moments soundtracked by Taylor Swift songs.

One of these moments came a few months back, 11 years to the day after my first encounter with Swift. I spent my eighteenth birthday hunched over my laptop, “You’re On Your Own, Kid” blasting in my headphones as I repeatedly refreshed TicketMaster. After hours of waiting, my teary-eyed friend FaceTimed me with the news we’d been hoping for all day: we’d scored tickets to the Eras Tour on May 28.

The tour kicked off in Glendale, Arizona — temporarily renamed “Swift City” — on March 17. With my own show over two months away, I cursed myself for not living in Arizona and tuned into a TikTok live stream of the concert by @punkrockswiftiemp3. So, here is my attempt to convey takeaways from a pixelated depiction of the eras tour broadcast to me by a 40-year-old stranger in Arizona.

Swift led her Glendale audience — and nearly 45,000 tuned in via TikTok live — through what she called an “adventure, one era at a time.” Through costume changes, musical interludes and elaborate set transformations, Swift made abundantly clear when she was departing one era for the next.

Swift didn’t time travel through her musical history chronologically. Instead, she shuffled through old and new eras haphazardly, tending to follow sets from each of her four untoured albums — Lover, folklore, evermore and Midnights — with a set from an older era.

The show was approximately three hours long, segmented into ten sets or “eras” — one for each of her nine most recent albums and an acoustic set featuring two surprise songs. She performed 44 songs total, donned 15 outfits, and scarcely took a break longer than four minutes.

At 8:05 GMT, a pink rhinestone-clad Swift emerged from a conglomeration of pastel-colored parachutes and it became instantly clear: we were in the Lover era. “It’s been a long time coming,” Swift sang from atop a ten-foot-tall platform. And the Eras Tour began.

After opening with “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince,” Swift transitioned seamlessly into “Cruel Summer,” a fan favorite despite never being released as an album single. After the song’s second chorus, Swift stopped and shared her first spoken words of the night. “Glendale, Arizona,” she said, smirking. “We’ve reached our first bridge of the evening. Are you with me?”

The deafening applause that followed revealed two things. First, there were an astonishing amount of people in this audience: nearly a quarter of the population of Glendale had gathered for the show. Second, every one of those people was “with” Swift, with her so passionately as to cheer as though they were the only ones there.

The second of Swift’s untoured albums to be performed was evermore. She performed five songs from the album, including fan-favorite “champagne problems.” Grinning maniacally, Swift led her crowd through the live debut of one of her self-proclaimed favorite lyrics, “what a shame she’s fucked in the head.”

The fourth-to-last era was folklore — a six-song long set that could have, with the addition of only a few songs, been a standalone concert. Swift was reminiscent of a young Stevie Nicks as she waltzed across the stage in a flowy, ethereal floor-length gown. The clear standout of the folklore set was “illicit affairs” — a number which had Swift on her knees, the wind blowing through her hair, belting an alternate melody of the song’s gut-wrenching bridge.

Though Swift gave heightened attention to her four most recent untoured albums, I found the highlights of the show to be performances of tracks off of older albums. With each changing song from eras past, my heart fluttered in anticipation of the moment of my life I’d be catapulted back to.

Swift closed out her opening Lover set with “The Archer.” She reappeared minutes later with a gold-fringed dress and sparkly guitar. Skipping down the football-field-length stage, she welcomed her audience into the Fearless era with the album’s title track and several child-like twirls, inviting them to come “back to high school” with her. The joyful performance felt like watching a bizarre enmeshment of Swift’s past and present selves.

When Swift returned to the stage in a one-sleeved, one-legged, snake-embellished bodysuit, the angst of the 2017 Reputation era was palpable. Though gripping, the set was highly predictable, highlighted by a thrilling mashup of “Don’t Blame Me” and “Look What You Made Me Do.”

The 1989 era performance was similarly predictable yet familiarly delightful. In a glittery two-piece set identical to the one she wore for her 2015 tour, Swift sang playfully through the album’s highlights.

The peak of the show — or perhaps the peak of my nostalgia, or both — hit roughly halfway through the concert, with the back-to-back Speak Now and Red era performances.

Swift floated across the stage in a voluminous ball gown for “Enchanted,” her sole performance from the Speak Now era. Watching Swift perform “Enchanted” in 2023, I wistfully envisioned the version of the song I’d seen performed in Madison Square Garden on my seventh birthday.

The nostalgia continued when Swift returned for her Red set in a charming throwback T-shirt reading “A Lot Going On at the Moment.” The Red era closed out with Swift’s most iconic and wordy song to date: “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault).” I recalled a moment a year earlier, when I caught my closeted-Swiftie dad singing along to the track. There wasn’t a moment of the ten-minute-long performance where fans were not screaming. It seemed a religious experience, at once cathartic and sedative.

The penultimate set wasn’t an era at all, but rather an acoustic interlude. Guitar in hand, Swift took to a stripped-down stage to share a surprise with her audience: each night, she would be performing two surprise songs, one on the piano and one on the guitar. On opening night, she played “mirrorball” from folklore on the guitar and “Tim McGraw” from her Debut album on the piano.

“I’m looking at you, and you’ve really shown up for me tonight,” Swift said as she played the opening chords to Tim McGraw. “So I thought it might be fun to play for you the very first song I ever put out.”

This moment of dialogue between Swift and her audience encapsulates perfectly the core juxtaposition of the Eras Tour, and of Swift more broadly: grandeur vs. intimacy. Throughout the entire concert, Swift rarely addressed the audience as a group. They were “you,” not “you guys.” Though heavily produced and inherently distant, the show felt fiercely intimate, even to a girl thousands of miles away watching through a pixelated screen.

Swift closed out the night with her most recent era, Midnights. The seven-song-long set was glitzy and heavily produced, with a notable chair-choreographed performance of “Vigilante Shit.” The final number of the encore-less show was “Karma”, a fun pop number and fan favorite.

As Swift bounced around the stage in yet another glittery fringed ensemble, her excitement radiated across the city-sized stadium and the screen of my phone. Her smile seemed to encapsulate both the thrill of time traveling through the eras of her life as well as her joy in the present moment.

I put my phone down at 2:15 a.m. and lay awake in bed, counting down the days until my concert. I pictured some future version of myself looking back on this moment and wondered which Taylor Swift song would carry the memory of my present era with me into the future.

Source: Jessai Flores, Molly Reinmann

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