Review By Tess
“Hello, my name is Taylor, and I will be your hostess for this evening’s Era concert.” What an understatement; there are concerts, and then there are Taylor Swift concerts.
When Taylor Swift’s Eras Australian tour was announced last June, it created a buzz on social media and among fan communities. Fans eagerly marked their calendars and set reminders for when tickets would go on sale. They then began planning their outfits, choosing themes that matched their favorite Taylor Swift era. This frenzy, reminiscent of Beatlemania, is fueled by a combination of excitement, nostalgia, and the thrill of witnessing Taylor’s storytelling in person.
Strolling through the Treasury Gardens on our way to the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground, we found ourselves amidst a sea of cowboy hats, sequins, and friendship bracelets, with white boots in abundance. It appeared that when it came to glitter and sparkle, the more, the merrier.
Tonight, is the largest crowd she has ever played to, with attendance ticking over at 96,000 people. The atmosphere inside the MCG was electric as the clock face appeared with a timer, letting us know the arrival of Miss Swift was imminent. The Swifties’ excitement was intense, filling the air with a buzz that was almost overwhelming. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… The roar of the crowd created a wall of sound that, I am sure, shook the very foundation of the mighty G. It was inside this wall that the outside world fades away, leaving nothing but the shared experience of the music and the storytelling that was about to unfold. It was hard to hear yourself think, but I took the opportunity to look around and take in the faces around me, old and young. I noticed the one element that united them all: sheer joy. There is nowhere else they would rather be than here, in Taylor’s universe, ready to sing, scream, cry, dance, and rejoice to their favorite Taylor tune.
As Taylor takes the stage, the energy shifts to a level I didn’t think was possible. Opening with Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince and Cruel Summer from her Lover Era, the stage exploded into a burst of colors and movement. The crowd echoed her every word; this is what they had been eagerly awaiting. A wave of pure bliss enveloped the stadium. “Well, hi!” The 14-time Grammy Award winner, donning the first of many outfits of the night, a custom Versace bodysuit and Louboutin boots with striking red soles which you catch a glimpse of during The Man. This song also saw a matching blazer being donned. The Lover Era wrapped up with You Need to Calm Down, Lover, and an extended version of The Archer.
Gold fireworks cascade from the top of the backdrop while the screens are filled with what looks like falling embers. It is here we get a proper visual of The Agency (her band) and backing vocalists. Guitarists Paul Sidoti and Michael Meadows, both who have been with Taylor since Fearless, took a stroll down the catwalk to showcase their skills as if summoning the portal for us all to be transported into the Fearless Era. Taylor appears, with gold-fringed Roberto Cavalli couture mini-dress, she teamed with a pair of shimmering cowboy boots and matching acoustic guitar. Joining her on stage was the rest of The Agency, bassist Amos Heller, guitarist/keyboard Max Bernstein and drummer Matt Billingslea, as we were treated with Fearless, You Belong to Me and crowd favorite Love Story.
With a visual intro of melting ice and forestry, we enter the evermore era. Taylor stands alone in an orange flowing dress with embroidered ruffled bodice – Enchanting. Opening with tis the damn season, as night descends in the forest and seems to bust into flames, she dons a green velvet hooded cloak, as her cloaked coven members join her in a ritual, as if trying to summon her true love during an extended version of willow. Sitting elegantly at a moss covered piano for the first time this evening, she explained the backstory of the conception of the Eras Tour. Taylors ability to connect and work the audience is nothing short of amazing. She weaves her songs into narratives sharing stories and moments that resonate deeply with her fans, making each person feel seen and understood. Her setlist is a clever blend of old hits from Lover to her 2022 album Midnights ensuring every fan, no matter which era they adore, finds a piece of their heart in her performance. Champagne problems rang out as her fingers danced across the keys; she really wanted to experience 96,000 people singing this song, and they did not disappoint. It was about this time my Apple Watch alerted me of being in a loud environment, ha! As almost a thank you to Taylor the crowd raised their voice, Taylor seemed overwhelmed with emotion as tears sprung to her eyes, showing her amazement, and absorbing the love that was being directed her way, loudly, very Loudly…. For nearly 3 mins. The obvious gratitude she has for her fanbase is honest and emotional; if one doesn’t “get” the Taylor-mania, (and a lot don’t), this is where it is. I get it now, and this long-time rock chick had her heart won over. And while I will never be a “Swifty” (are there applications being taken?), I will wear my Eras t-shirt with pride as an avid fan.
The production is nothing short of breathtaking, with dazzling visuals, elaborate modular staging, and quick costume changes that mirror each Era. Next up was one of my favourite parts of the evening as the blackened backscreen revealed a black snake slithering across the screen, fading in and out to the footsteps of determined heels seeming to walk our way. Are you ready for it…? HECK YEAH! I was ready for it. Taylor appeared in a Roberto Cavalli one-legged jumpsuit. The black material glittering with a three-dimensional embroidered ruby red snake, winding from the bottom of her leg to the top of her neck. Sidenote: I was excited to see, Paul Sidoti wielding a EVH Kramer, hats off to you sir!! Delicate, Don’t Blame Me and the ever-popular Look What You Made Me Do round out this rock pop era of Taylors expansive career.
Without a chance to catch my breath the MCG was bathed in purple. Light up bracelets we were all given glowed purple, alternating throughout the stands creating a sparkling effect. But it is not just the spectacle that captivated, it is the raw and genuine and unrelenting energy that Taylor brings to the solid 3 and half hour concert. Dipping into her passion for story telling through music transforms the concert into what feels like an intimate gathering, despite the grand scale. Each song, from the anthemic to the acoustic, is delivered with such sincerity that it’s impossible not to be moved. A short visit to the Speak Now Era, performing just 2 songs, Enchanted and Long Live in a beautiful lilac ballgown, which thanks to its crystal-embellished skirt captured the light beautifully.
As Taylor transitions into the Red Era, starting with the spirited anthem 22, the stage lights up primarily in red, reflecting the song’s lively energy. In what has become as no surprise to diehard fans but was certainly a surprise for young Swiftie, Milana Bruno. To the delight of die-hard fans and the surprise of young Swiftie, Milana Bruno, one fan at each show is chosen to receive the hat worn by Miss Taylor herself. Milana won everyone’s hearts as she beamed, holding back tears while Taylor approached her at the end of the catwalk to place the signed, coveted ’22’ hat on her young fan’s head, and gave her a big hug after Milano gave Miss Swift a friendship bracelet. Core memory activated.
Shedding her white t-shirt, which incidentally read “a lot going on right now” — the opposite of her Instagram post during the pandemic, which said “not a lot going on right now” — she revealed a red sequined bodice and black sequined shorts. Miss Swift and her posse of very talented dancers broke into We Are Never Getting Back Together. In what seemed to be an affectionate nod to a popular Australian idiom, she turned the mic to one of her talented dancers during the bridge:
“Ugh, so he calls me up and he’s like, ‘I still love you,’
And I’m like, ‘I just, I mean, this is exhausting, you know?
Like, we are never getting back together, ……… and Kameron Saunders pulled off ‘YEAAAH, NAAAAHHH’ perfectly.” On ya, Kman, I LOVE IT!
After a lively but shortened version of I Knew You Were Trouble, Miss Swift now back on guitar gave us a gorgeous 10 min rendition of All Too Well. I am completely astounded by her dedication to her craft, she has now been going solidly for just shy of 2 hours.
Just when you think you can sit for a minute, Taylors voice rings out across the darkness. A spoken poem, lyrics taken from Wildest Dreams and Seven, setting the tone for what’s to come. The Folklore cabin appeared on stage, creating an intimate and enchanting atmosphere that transported the audience into the heart of the Folklore album. The production’s ability to transport you into another world is truly astounding.
Taylor, perched on the cabin’s roof in a stunning green chiffon gown by Alberta Ferretti, with a deep neckline and flowing sleeves adorned with embroidered leaf detailing, sings a beautiful rendition of The 1. This gown, perfectly complementing the Folklore theme, enhances the magical setting. The mood shifts as Taylor, with her guitar, introduces betty and provides context, delving into the song’s narrative of youthful regret and redemption, bringing the story to life with a vividness unique to Taylor. This was the longest era, rounding out at 8 songs including last great american dynasty (about the socialite Rebekah Harkness who previously owned Taylors Rhode Island mansion), august (summer love that was never meant to last), and illicit affairs (complexity and secrecy of forbidden love)
my tears ricochet was a hauntingly beautiful performance. Easily one of the saddest songs of the 17-song album. A song about betrayal, an end of a relationship and the aftermath of a deep personal conflict. The lyrics And if I’m dead to you, why are you at the wake? echo through the air and hit home on a personal level. Is this what it feels like? Taylors voice coupled with the atmosphere and the staging is truly immersive and a testament to her ability to connect with her audience through her music and storytelling.
The Folklore Era concludes with cardigan, a popular song that feels like a warm embrace amidst the cold, forested world of Folklore. It’s a tender reminder of love’s enduring presence, closing this segment like a journey through a forgotten forest of stories and shadows.
However, the enchantment of Folklore is quickly replaced by a vibrant pop explosion as we transition to the 1989 era with Style. Taylor appears with her dancers from underneath the stage and treating delighted fans to the ultimate party look – an orange shimmering two-piece by Roberto Cavalli. Blank Space, and the super fun Shake It Off, made sure we were well and truly out of the whimsy of folklore and ready to party Taylor style. Taylors energy is infectious, inviting everyone present to be a little more self-accepting, learn to laugh at yourself and letting yourself just dance. One of my favorites rounded up this fun era. Bad Blood, with a beat that demands attention and lyrics about betrayal and conflict, its all brought to life on stage with a passion that matches it perfectly. Intense lighting, visuals and choreography adds to the intensity that is slowly building, and as Taylor belts out the final chorus, pyro canons erupt bringing a literal explosive ending to the 1989 era.
At the 2 and ¾ hour mark, I find myself wondering, how does Taylor Swift do this? And to think, she’s doing it again for two more nights in Melbourne! The excited whispers around me gain momentum, with hushed conversations about “surprise songs.” It seems Taylor Swift includes a couple of surprise songs in every performance, and they’re always different. What’s in store for us tonight? Earlier, there was talk of her new album dropping… No, surely not. But as Taylor makes her way down the catwalk in a yellow ruffled dress, looking as fresh as when she started, we’re about to find out. She picks up her guitar and welcomes us to the acoustic section. The crowd inhales deeply, collectively holding their breath in anticipation. “Loving him is like…” That’s all they needed to hear, and for a moment, that’s all I could hear, confirming the gift of Taylor’s version of Red.
Taylor takes her place at a flowery piano to make a surprise announcement “I think more than any of albums that I’ve ever made. I needed to make it. It was really a lifeline for me. Just the things I was going through and the things I was writing about. It kind of reminded me of why songwriting was something that actually gets me through my life.”, and it was with this that she unveiled the new alternate album cover of The Tortured Poets Department, due out April 19. It’s on this new album she announced that there is an exclusive song called The Bolter. Thinking she was about to show us this new song, I started wondering why the Swifties seems to know it already?! And swiftly (pun intended) realised it was in fact a debut live rendition of a fan favourite, You’re Losing Me. Although some were singing every word back at Taylor, many were quiet, hanging onto every word, as Taylor poured her heart into the keys, generating a sense of shared heartache and nostalgia.
Interacting with the crowd and posing for photos, the sounds of water wash over the venue, and the catwalk transforms into a pool. Taylor surveys her fans before “diving in” and swimming back to the stage, leading us into the to our final destination for the evening, The Midnights Era. Donning yet another sparkly purple dress with a matching faux fur crystal dripping jacket. Lavender Haze, and the ever-popular Anti-Hero kick off the section and I started to feel the tug of disappointment as the end was heading towards us like a freight train. Using the ever-evolving modular stage to her advantage, Midnight Rain showed the final costume change, a beautiful beaded fringed midnight-blue leotard designed by Oscar de la Renta, paired with matching glittery boots and garter to top the ensemble. Taylor delivered with unwavering emotion before seamlessly transitioning into the darker and more dramatic, Vigilante Shit. Edgy lyrics and bass heavy beats that showcases empowerment, revenge and taking control of one’s narrative. The production was very noir-esque, stark moody lighting and minimal yet effective visuals that match the songs’ theme perfectly. Taylor oozed confidence and ferocity, making each lyric a strike and a swipe at those who have ever wronged her. Bejeweled and Mastermind lead us by the hand to the finale, and we went although unwillingly, not wanting to end. Karma was simply put, a high-energy visual spectacle, infectious rhythms and an atmosphere of pure celebration. Taylor gave as much energy as she had 3 and ½ hours ago. She took a moment while extending the outro to ask everyone in the audience to thank everyone on stage performing with her. There were fireworks above the stage and stadium, confetti aplenty, there was not one person sitting there was happiness everywhere. Taylor, the last to leave the stage, took a final wave and a bow and disappeared into the stage.
The crowd, including myself is left feeling exhilarated. The collective feeling in the crowd exiting the MCG is one of connection and appreciation. For the uninitiated Swifties, like myself, the energy, the storytelling, the vision – it all boils down to a revitalised and enhanced respect for Taylor Swift – not just as a pop star, but as a songwriter, a storyteller and a performer. Taylor invites us to find a piece of our story within hers, creating a lasting bond that transcends even the mighty Melbourne Cricket Ground.
For anyone who has even questioned, or doubted the magic of Taylor Swift, the Eras concert is a compelling and immersive argument that can transform scepticism into admiration. I personally have been to my fair share of concerts, and this, ladies and gentlemen, was no concert; it is a journey through the career of one of the most influential and successful artists of our time. I get it now; I do feel that deep down, I do get the phenomenon that is Taylor Swift.