I went to see Taylor Swift on Saturday night, and I regret nothing. A true story.
I remember when we broke up the first time
saying this is it, I’ve had enough, because like
we hadn’t seen each other in a month
when you said you needed space – what?!
The weirdest break-up I ever experienced was not a romantic one. Four or five years ago, I remember sitting in my friend’s car outside my house. “I just don’t think we have that much in common,” she said to me. “I mean, you like rock music, and I listen to Taylor Swift.” While her accusations were true, I didn’t think differences in music tastes were enough to lose a whole friendship over. We did end up getting “back together” and then breaking up a few more times after that, until our bond was well and truly broken [and she deleted me on Facebook].
That particular girl, who I haven’t seen in a couple of years now, would probably have been more surprised than anyone to see me rushing up to the ticket booth outside Etihad stadium on Saturday evening, breathlessly asking the cashier for two of the cheapest possible tickets to see Taylor Swift.
My love affair with T-Swizzle began much like any other musical act: I saw her live. Last year, my sister was without anybody to accompany her to Taylor’s Speak Now tour. She offered me her second ticket, and I spent the night at the side of the GA floor section of Rod Laver Arena, chilling with the mothers and chaperones. While Ms. Swift won me over with her audience interactions and the attention that she paid to her young crowd, I still wasn’t the biggest fan of her music. And then she released Red. The first time I heard “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, something inside of me changed; I became the kind of person who, for a long time, I never thought I’d be – the kind of person who voluntarily listens to Taylor Swift. I thought about getting myself a ticket back when this tour was announced, but couldn’t quite justify the cost. After thinking about it way too many times since, however, on Saturday I just thought, fuck it, and the next thing I knew, I was on the train.
Saturday night’s performance at Etihad Stadium was the final 2013 date on T-Swizzle’s multi-national Red tour. Although the 47,000-person venue wasn’t completely sold out, there was a massive crowd of people there. Girls of all ages were wearing red dresses and/or fake glasses, cat ears and red lips. The merch stands [of which there were roughly twenty thousand] would have made an absolute fortune; every second person in the crowd was swinging a bag of swag, or holding a Taylor Swift-Branded Light-Up Stick Thing [which, I believe, is the official name].
After walking the very long way up the ramp to our level three seats [we were five rows from the very back of the venue], Glenn and I caught the very end of Neon Trees’ support spot. They closed their set with “Everybody Talks” [ie. the song that everybody knows], and they were followed by Guy Sebastian who emerged seemingly only minutes later. Performing only his more recent hits, Guy seems to have left behind his humble talent show beginnings. Is it really too much to ask for him to sing “Angels Brought Me Here” once in a while?
There was a much longer gap between the second support act and Taylor Swift’s set. While we watched people attempt to send Mexican Waves around the stadium, I began to properly take in the scale of what we were about to witness. I’ve been to concerts at Etihad stadium twice before, but only one of those was a pop concert with screaming young fans [Robbie Williams] – and I was on the floor, right near the front, so it didn’t seem quite as big. This time, I had a bird’s eye view of the place and could properly see all of the signs and flashing lights and glow sticks and everything else. It’s a completely different concert experience to that which I am used to. Nobody would be caught dead wearing a wreath of fairy lights in the mosh pit for Biffy Clyro. But at this kind of performance, with sets and costume changes, it’s accepted – if not encouraged! I’d never really thought about these differences in concert cultures before – in my mind, a gig is a gig – but it’s definitely something that I’ll try to observe in the future.
As the lights began to dim, “American Woman” by Lenny Kravitz blasted from the speakers, echoing around the stadium. At the song’s end, the silhouette of 24 year-old Taylor could be seen behind a thin curtain, and the crowd went absolutely mental. With an army of backup dancers, Swift strutted her stuff along the weirdly shaped stage [so designed to work around the teeny tiny – and incredibly expensive – general admission section]. Like the last time I saw her, T-Swizzle was a gracious performer, thanking her audience multiple times. She made the effort to point out people’s posters and handmade t-shirts, and tried to touch hands with as many fans as she possibly could.
There’s no such thing as the average Taylor Swift fan – all sorts of people were enjoying the show on Saturday night – however there are a lot of young girls who look up to her. Because of this, there were several points during the show where Taylor spoke directly to them about self-worth and self-belief, and how she writes songs to help understand her own feelings. She did this with humour, too: “When they say they need space, and I’m like fine, I’ll never talk to you again – and I’ll go home and write a whole album about you.” These little speeches didn’t mean too much to me, but to the little ones in the audience they were encouraging and inspiring – it reminded me a bit of listening to Shirley Manson talk to the women in the crowd at Garbage shows. It’s a wonderful thing to go to a live show and then come home feeling happy and excited and inspired and better about yourself, and T-Swizzle understands that, and it’s something that she tries to evoke during her own gigs. Even if you don’t like her music, you’ve got to respect her for that.
The highlights of the gig were pretty obvious. All of the Taylor Swift-Branded Light-Up Stick Things turned red during “Red”, which was visually stunning. I enjoyed singing along to “Mean” and “22”. During the costume change before “Lucky One” there was a little video of a performer named “Lucky” [portrayed by Swift, obviously] contemplating stardom in her dressing room – the Britney Spears influence was apparent. “You Belong With Me” [a.k.a. the “she wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts” song, as I call it] was performed on a little platform towards the rear of the floor, with Taylor on acoustic guitar. Everyone was encouraged to belt out that one. “I Knew You Were Trouble” was weird, with extra dubstep elements added into the live arrangement. Ending at 10:30pm on the dot, there was no encore, but T-Swizzle closed her set with my favourite song of hers, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”.
On the train home, I was sitting with a couple of twelve year-old girls decked out in tour t-shirts and fake black-rimmed glasses and their tired chaperone. While I frantically scribbled notes on a napkin [my phone was dead and I didn’t have a notebook with me], I had to stop myself from humming.
That old friend and I may never ever get back together, but my fondness of T-Swizzle is here to stay.