I used to dislike Taylor Swift so much that the mere mention of her name or music from friends would illicit judgment, eye rolls, and a kind of let’s-not-talk-about-this type attitude usually reserved for political or religious discussion. But between living with many of her greatest hits at my nightclub job (I’ve played “Shake It Off” easily 300 times by now) and my girlfriend’s logically effusive praises of her talents, my anti-Swift wall has shown signs of cracking.
So I suppose you could say I arrived at Tuesday’s Pittsburgh stop of the Reputation tour with a blank space, baby. I came in with genuine hopes of being entertained rather than as a high brow critic ready to throw tomatoes.
Needless to say, mission accomplished. For 90 minutes Swift’s spectacle of a show was a fitting reflection of her as the biggest thing going in music. She impressively took advantage of the rarified air that playing in a stadium provides with a series of flashes that were shameless in their grandiosity yet were in total lockstep with the overall presentation of the Reputation theme. Out of context, gimmicks like giant snakes, a floating tea cup and an onstage fountain seem pompous and self indulgent. But in Swift’s show, anything went. It captivated the more objective observers like me and undoubtedly sent die-hard Swifties into delirium.
What resonated the most with me was Swift’s evangelical preacher-esque interactions with the crowd. Even if her personalized monologues frequently featured corny transitions (“There’s a word for what you are that’s more than beautiful” she said as she launched into “Gorgeous”) her genuine appreciation for her fans and what she does is apparent, and frankly, refreshing. Both the Guns ‘N Roses and Beyonce shows I’d previously seen at Heinz Field made not as much as a passing mention to the crowd or the city they were in. It’s no easy task captivate a stadium size audience but Swift did so at an unprecedented level, and those heartfelt audience moments went a long way in achieving this.
I will never consider myself a Taylor Swift fan but anyone with a general love for music has to respect what she’s doing at the level she’s doing it at it. I felt an irony as Swift sang “I’m just a girl/trying to find a place in this world” off a song from her first album. Right now, as far as pop music is concerned, it’s Taylor Swift’s world. And everyone making music is slightly better for it.
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