Taylor Swift may play the grown-up and slightly jaded woman with a lot on her mind (and just as much to get off) on her latest album. But at a sold-out Quicken Loans Arena last night, she was still living out her teenage fantasies of princes, princesses, and fairy-tale dreams.
Almost every song was its own compressed theatrical production, with dancers, staircases, set and costume changes, exploding confetti, and even some good old-fashioned pyrotechnics working alongside Swift and the nine other musicians onstage. (The giant frames at the back of the stage that beamed live video from the concert was an inspired touch.)
There were ballet dancers, acrobats dangling from gigantic bells suspended over the stage, at least three Hee Haw-type skits going on during the front-porch scene of "Mean," and a full wedding happening during "Speak Now," which ended with Swift strolling through the Q and playing a few songs from the back of the arena (including a mini-medley of songs by Ohio artists, like Macy Gray's "I Try").
The 21-year-old singer-songwriter is a more confident performer onstage these days. She sounded strong throughout her 18-song, two-hour set, playing guitar, banjo, piano, and ukulele.
And she was also grateful for the 14,500 fans (mostly young, and very loud, girls) who showed up to see her. Swift played to the crowd, mixing compliments with a genuine love for her audience that you don't find much in megastars these days.
Even potentially hokey gestures, like making heart signs with her hands and the broom-wielding tap dancer, came off as weirdly real and so appropriate for Swift. She even teared up after the ear-shattering screams that followed concert opener "Sparks Fly."
Most of the songs came from her third album, 2010's Speak Now. She played only one song from her twangier 2006 self-titled debut, "Our Song," which was given a porch-jam treatment. That left plenty of room for the big, roomy arena-ready pop from Speak Now.
And she hit almost everything you'd want to hear from Speak Now and 2008's Fearless: "Mine," "You Belong With Me," "Fifteen," and the show-ending "Love Story," in which Swift took a spin around the Q in a floating balcony.
Though some of the interludes between costume changes were kind of a drag (tap dancers and ballet dancers?), Swift's current tour is one of the best arena shows I've seen in a long time. It was seamless, tasteful, and most of all a sterling showcase for one of our best artists. —Michael Gallucci