Written by Killian O’Neil
Photos Provided by TAS Management
Barbara Walters was right when she said, “Taylor Swift was the Music Industry.” Ms. Swift’s music has acted as the soundtrack and unpaid therapist for this generation throughout the world since her debut in 2006. Taylor has always been in a league of her own, to say the least.
Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane to recap. It started at 16 when she released her first single, “Tim McGraw,” after being discovered in Nashville, Tennessee. Taylor was at an industry showcase called The Bluebird Café in 2005 and captured the attention of Scott Borchetta, who at the time was a Dreamworks Records executive. Soon after she signed with him, “Tim McGraw” was released and was quickly followed up with her Debut Album, Taylor Swift, which jumpstarted her career and took her to the top of country music almost overnight. Once she arrived at the top of the Country game, she wanted to transcend into something more and found her place in the pop world, where she still makes waves. When TS was younger, she would write songs by “grabbing inspiration from books and movies,” said the pop star in her documentary “Miss Americana.” There is always an element of imagination in her storytelling as a songwriter. Taylor became the youngest person in history to write and perform a number-one country song in 2006. One thing that has always rung true for her is how she is undeniably authentic in everything she does. TS is so rooted in who she is that not even the biggest gust of wind can put her fire out, many have tried, and none have succeeded. Taylor makes her life transparent to the world, which allows her to connect with fans in a way that has never been done before. It’s as if each song she releases is a diary entry, and each Album is a window into her life. The lyrics are always relatable in some way, shape, or form. Her words remind us that she is just like everyone else, trying to weather her storm.
The way Taylor has her songs produced is a pure work of art; how the lyrics are strung together makes you feel like it is something out of a book you can’t stop reading but, in this case, listening to. The vulnerability that exists in doing that is immeasurable, but there is a definite duality of both being vulnerable and transparent. To act in full transparency, especially as an artist in the spotlight, you must also be vulnerable and put it all out there. Which is one of the hardest things a person ever has to do, yet somehow, Taylor does it effortlessly. By no means has her life been a walk in the park regarding her relationship with music and the media . TS has endured an exceeding amount of bullshit throughout her career, which all was being thrust into the forefront while she simultaneously was trying to focus on her next step with the music. With an artist like TS, the more success she achieved, the more people wanted to tear it down. Reporters and tabloids have put her life under a microscope and exploited her for things everyone else would do to fit their own narrative.
Unlike other artists, it was different for TS because she was automatically labeled “America’s Sweetheart” right out of the gate by the labels and media, who tried to pigeonhole her to one standard. Which is immensely difficult when you don’t ask for that title in the first place and are trying to grow into who you are at 16. Despite all her hardships, Taylor has always handled each situation with poise, grace, and elegance.
Having 12 Grammy Awards and three of the 12 being “Album of the Year,” Fearless(08′), 1989 (16′), and Folklore(21′), it’s a testament that she has only just begun. TS is an unstoppable talent and force that has found her voice and made it clear that she isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Taylor Swift has been paving the way for the last 18 years since stepping into the spotlight; now, at 33, she only continues to raise the bar. Her latest endeavor involves Breaking Ticketmaster and making millions of people’s dreams come true in minutes. This past November, she announced on Good Morning America and through her different social media platforms that she was going back on tour. Not just any tour, it takes you on a journey through the eras of her career from the beginning to her latest release, Midnight.
I don’t know how many people know that TS is from West Reading, Pennsylvania, and not Nashville, Tennessee, but I sure did, and so did the rest of the Philly Tri-state area. The morning the news broke that Taylor was doing a three-day run in Philadelphia was the only thing people were talking about. It was also all over my news feed and the local news for at least a week. The Pinterest boards were being created to correlate what outfit to wear for which era; it was wild. The tickets were yet to be on sale, and people were taking off work to ensure they could see her in the flesh. It was like it was the second coming. Some people already bought an outfit before their ticket.
November 15th,2022, was the date that the presale tickets for Ticketmaster went on sale for all of the Swifties. If you didn’t know, that’s Taylor’s fan base, which comprises millions of amazing humans who seem to love sequins and glitter as much as the queen herself. Let’s keep in mind that the 15th was the date for the presale; the actual date of release of the rest of the tickets was November 18th. Ticketmaster had a verified fan program to ensure an easy process to get tickets and weed out the bots due to high demand. They anticipated madness but nothing quite like this. Over 3.5 million people pre-registered for her presale, which was three days before the actual sale date. It turned out to be the largest pre-registration in Ticketmaster history. Ticketmaster stated, “Historically, around 40% of invited fans actually show up and buy tickets, and most purchase an average of 3 tickets. Around 1.5 million people were sent codes to join the presale for all 52 show dates, including the 47 sold by Ticketmaster. The remaining 2 million Verified Fans were placed on a waiting list on the small chance that tickets might still be available after those who received codes had shopped.” Ticketmaster also stated, “Historically, we’ve managed huge volume coming into the site to shop for tickets, so those with Verified Fan codes have a smooth shopping process. However, this time the staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans who didn’t have codes drove unprecedented traffic on our site, resulting in 3.5 billion total system requests – 4x our previous peak.” In a nutshell, Ticketmaster couldn’t work at the capacity they originally promised Taylor, and it crashed. “Over 2 million tickets were sold on Ticketmaster for Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour on November 15th – the most tickets ever sold for an artist in a single day”. Ultimately they ran out of tickets during the presale and had to cancel the public on-sale. Ticketmaster released a few groups of tickets, a handful at a time, with staggered sales weeks apart following the madness of November 15th to ensure that people could still get some chance at getting a ticket. Not only was there already an insane amount of hype for this concert, now there was a slight chance of even getting tickets that weren’t through a reseller. I even heard of people taking personal loans or tapping into their life savings to purchase a ticket to one of the three days in Philadelphia.
The dates for Philadelphia for the eras tour were May 12,13,14, which has some personal ties for Taylor, seeing as it’s in her hometown and it was Mother’s Day weekend. There has been a ton of speculation on the internet and within the Swiftie fan base that it’s not an accident that she played on the 13th, which is her lucky number, and it happened to be in Philly. It’s also not lost on me that she had her parents come out for Mother’s Day this weekend as well as some of her closest friends showed up at the Linc, which included celebrities such as Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, Nicole Kidman, and Keith Urban, Jennifer Lawrence, Lena Dunham, Sabrina Carpenter, Matt Healy ( who wound up playing with Phoebe Bridgers), Bethenny Frankel, Bo Burnham and Gigi Hadid.
This last weekend was one I will never forget and will talk about for years to come when Taylor’s name gets brought up. I was one of the lucky ones who could attend a day of this monumental tour. I am beyond blessed to have witnessed the most amazing production of my life.
It was Friday, May 12th, and the day was finally here; I woke up, and it felt like Christmas! A few friends who knew I was reviewing the show greeted me with a “Merry Swiftmas” text instead of Good morning. The city had been buzzing all week long, awaiting this “Taylor Swift Takeover” and how to prepare the sports complex for the wave of sequins and glitter that was about it hit. All the local bars in the suburbs were doing TS trivia; some even gave lucky winners tickets to her show. The last time there was this much coverage on a Philadelphia concert was for Live 8 in 2005. Every media outlet was set up outside of the Lincoln Financial Field. The traffic getting down to the Stadium was something I had never seen and swore I wouldn’t ever be a part of, but hell, it’s Taylor Swift. What typically is a 15 minute drive took me an hour and a half. Luckily I decided to Uber and hopped out right at Xfinity Live and made my way Inside.
I had to take a moment to stop and take in the entire environment. It was something out of a movie; my imagination could never have imagined what my eyes witnessed. Everyone was in head-to-toe glitter or sequins and cowboy boots by the masses. Little girls, teenagers, mothers, and even grown women filed in line to enter. Upon entry, they handed everyone a wristband with lights that would later light up randomly to accompany the performance. As I made my way to my seat, I was starting to get that feeling I seldom do when I’m about to experience something magical. It took roughly 30 minutes to navigate the sea of pink and fringe sequins. By the time I reached my seat, Gayle was already underway, who was the first supporting artist of the night. You may know her for her hit single “ABCDEFU,” released in 2021.
My seats were terrific, and I had a clear view of the stage without looking over people. I was close enough that TS wasn’t going to look like an ant but far enough not to have to deal with looking up at the stage instead of directly at it. Imagine a runway with a 110 ft story tv behind it, and in the middle of the runway, it opens into a diamond and goes back into a runway with a rectangle at the end. That’s what the stage looked like, and tall light structures held speakers at each point.
Phoebe Bridgers was up next and entered the stage with Down with the Sickness by Disturbed playing throughout the Stadium and went right into her song “Motion Sickness.” Phoebe was a real treat and had the crowd fully engaged. Phoebe also had Matt Healy on guitar while on stage during her performance. It has been rumored that Matt and TS are dating, so that was a real fun surprise for the crowd when they realized he was on stage. Phoebe played for about 45 minutes.
Once she got off stage, it became real that Taylor Swift was about to go on. Everyone was scurrying around last minute to either get drinks, go to the bathroom, or grab some merch. The clock started approaching eight o’clock, and when I looked around, every seat that was once empty in the arena now had a person in it. The weather that night couldn’t have been more perfect, it was a beautiful night with zero humidity, and the sun was setting. At 7:58, a Giant analog stopwatch appeared on the screen while the speakers played “you don’t own me” by Leslie Gore. The stopwatch was set to “2:22,” which initiated the countdown till Taylor was on stage.
As the clock struck eight, the bottom of the 110-foot screen opened up, and seven dancers floated out onto the stage down the runway with fog trailing behind them. The song “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” played through the speakers at a low volume, steadily getting louder. The dancers had beautiful life-size fans on their backs, which looked like peacock feathers. The colors of these fans were pastel purple, pink, and orange, like a rainbow Sherbert sky but on a piece of silk fabric. Once each dancer was out on the stage and in proper positions, they started their choreography. I’d never seen something so perfectly done; four dancers were in the front of the diamond and three in the back. It was so fluid and whimsical and set the tone for the rest of the evening. Once they reached the middle of the diamond, space opened up for the dancers in the front, and three dancers in the back flipped the fan down over the runway. When they stood up, Taylor Swift appeared on a platform coming out of the stage. Dressed in a gorgeous silver sequin bodysuit and knee-high silver heeled boots.
TS popped out, and without missing a beat, she greeted this insane crowd with a playful “Oh, hi Philly!!” and grinned and continued right into her song “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince,” she does some crowd work. She transitions right into “The Man” After finishing “The Man,” someone hands her a pale pink acoustic guitar. She walks up to the microphone; Taylor addresses the sold-out show with, “Whether you are aware of it or not, you have walked into my hometown show,” and the fans erupt into cheers. She wrapped up the lover’s era with “The Archer.” It was obvious what song was next with the Gold firework-like comet raining down from the top of the 110 ft screen onto the stage; it was “Fearless.” Before Moving into the era, she thanked the openers for killing it earlier that night.
Then TS jumped right back into the Fearless era and powered through songs “Fearless,” “You Belong with Me,” and ending with “Love Story.” The crowd went absolutely crazy during “Love Story.” It was, after all, one of the singles off that Album; how could you not belt that song out at the top of your lungs? As “Love Story” was being performed, the sun finally set, and everyone’s wrists were blinking with different colors in the Stadium, all interchangeably, giving it a light show effect for the rest of the concert.
During the Evermore era, a gorgeous white moss-covered grand piano got rolled out. “Tis the Damn Season,” “Willow,” “Marjorie,” “Champagne Problems,” and “Tolerate It,” which are all super emotional charged songs on the album. When Taylor wrapped up “Marjorie” and got up from the piano, she thanked the fans that night for showing so much love. She explained how special that song was to her and how meaningful it was to play it in that Stadium in particular. Especially since she was back in Philadelphia and spent her childhood growing up here on a farm, spending time with family, it’s written about her grandmother, who has passed on.
Once again, grinding away with the evening going into the Reputation era without missing a beat. Taylor kicked that era off with “Ready for It” and made a segway into “Delicate,” “Don’t Blame Me,” and ended with “Look What You Made Me Do.” The stage sets were mind-blowing for each era. The one set that still stood out is “Look What You Made Me Do.” Taylor had six dancers in glass boxes at the back of the stage closest to the screen. Each box had a dancer dressed as a different ‘version of Taylor” throughout the years. It was mind-blowing how it was done. The dancers weren’t only just dressed as her but were also miming the entire time. For her only song from “Speak Now,” she came onto the stage slowly with a gorgeous purple bell ball gown that was covered in what appeared to be hand-sewn beads and started to belt out “Enchanted.” It was understated but just enough, with the fog rolling out behind her.
After that era ended, she wasted little time and kicked off Red; each song was her own version. That included “22,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Taylor’s Version),” “I Knew You Were Trouble”(Taylor’s version),” and “All Too Well.” As well as a gorgeous duet with supporting artist Phoebe Bridgers performing “Nothing New (Taylor’s Version)” While they were wrapping up “Nothing New,” she made the comment, “and we have ten extra minutes” and started on her version of “All Too Well.” Which was also a very big crowd-pleaser that night; it honestly brought tears to my eyes with how emotional the Stadium was at that point in the show. I wouldn’t think it was possible to do some of the things Taylor was doing on stage at the pace she was doing with the footwear she was sporting. It was amazing.
Next up, we have Folklore which she told us how it was created during covid and was a made-up persona. TS also expressed that during covid, her coping mechanism was “writing her feelings down then singing them with everyone.” So thank you, covid, for having her write this! The songs during that era were “The 1,” “Betty,” “The Last Great American Dynasty,” “August,” “Illicit Affairs,” and “My Tears Ricochet and Cardigan.” It was where everything slowed down for a bit for everyone to catch their breath, but that didn’t last long.
The entire energy of the Stadium shifted as soon as the first chord for “Style” was played as we headed into the era of 1989; it was time to dance and pick it up a bit. After that, she went into “Blank Space” (another huge crowd favorite), “Shake It Off,” “Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version),” and last but not least, “Bad Blood.” Now that song, that set, that was something. I didn’t know what we were shifting into at one point, it was edgy and fun, and then the next thing I knew, during the chorus at the top of the speaker posts, pyro technics came out with full-blown fire. I was decently close to them, and it was heating the Stadium for sure.
It was time to wind down again and hear the surprise songs, one of the most anticipated parts of her tour. It’s where Taylor takes requests and plays two different acoustic songs a night. Luckily for Philly, on night one we got “Gold Rush,” the first time it was performed live, and “Come Back, Be Here.” The debate was also settled about the song lyric in “Gold Rush” referring to the Eagles shirt hanging on the door. She says, “There was sort of a, I don’t know how large the debate was, but I did see the debate about how a lyric that says ‘with my Eagles T-shirt hanging from the door’… I saw some people wondering if it was the band Eagles or the team the Eagles” and then adds, “And I love the band the Eagles,” Swift noted, “but guys, like come on. I’m from Philly. Of course it’s the team.”. Shortly after that, the part of the floor seating directly in front of the stage erupted into a momentary E-A-G-L-E-S chant in typical Philly fashion. She wraps up with “Come Back, Be Here” per Phoebe Bridgers’s request. The crowd lost it for both acoustic songs, and she disappeared into the stage by “diving” into it, which made it appear that she was swimming up the stage via graphics on the background. I glanced at the time, and it was a quarter till 11, and I thought to myself, how the hell is she about to fit seven more songs into this night? She has done every era, and it’s time for the grand finale.
Taylor appears on stage in a lavender sequin shirt dress and a giant furry-like purple coat as she sings “Lavender Haze” from her latest Album, Midnight. She then goes into “Anti-Hero,” has an outfit change into a dark blue sequin fringe dress, and hops right into “Midnight Rain,” “Vigilante “h*t.” “Bejeweled,” “Mastermind,” and ended the show with “Karma.” During the finale song, there was so much energy it was overwhelming in the best possible way. Nobody wanted the night to end. As the last lyrics were being sung, “Karma is my boyfriend, karma is a God, karmas a relaxing thought,” fireworks launched off the top of the Linc. Taylor thanked the crowd repeatedly as she took her bows and had her incredible team of dancers bow with her. Two things I learned that night; one: Don’t ever underestimate the power of Taylor Swift. And two: I needed to acquire a pair of sequin boots for my closet sooner rather than later.
During the entire era tour, Taylor plays a straight three-hour set, without any breaks, roughly 43 songs. That covers nine of her albums, including Lover, Fearless, Evermore, Reputation, Speak Now, Red, Folklore, 1989, and last but not least, her latest and greatest, Midnight. I was so captivated by not only just Taylor but the production she puts on. It left me at a loss for words multiple times that night because somehow she just put on the biggest sold-out show, yet it was one of the most intimate performances I’ve ever witnessed. Everything from the light shows the dancers and choreographers, the costumes, and last and most importantly, not least, the set design. The dancers, as well as Taylor, were so fluid and whimsical during the show. The entire evening I felt that I was witnessing a Broadway show with how theatrical her entire production was; every set had such exquisite detail and complemented each era beautifully. If you could give someone a Grammy for a tour set design, whoever that person is, needs recognition. From start to finish, that night was flawless; It was all done perfectly and meticulously. You can tell how much Taylor cares about what she does by how much effort she puts in for her performance. People can talk all the shit they want about Taylor Swift, but there is a reason she has 12 Grammys, and when you see her in concert, you quickly understand it.
Taylor is a larger-than-life presence and is up there with the other great musical icons. She is an inspiration and role model to many. NYU has classified Taylor Swift by the institution as “One of the most prolific famous artists of her generation,” after that performance, I couldn’t agree more. Taylor did play two more nights in Philadelphia this past weekend; unfortunately, I was not in attendance. I can tell you that 20,000+ fans decided to join TS in a sing-along outside of the Stadium on both Saturday and Sunday. How many artists can you say can do that?