Imagine a stadium filled with 52,000 people singing as loudly as possible to one of the best-selling singles of all time while the LED bracelets on their wrists light up an appropriate pretty, pale pink. This was the moment I found myself engrossed in on Friday night, June 1st as fans at Soldier Field watched in complete awe as Taylor Swift performed one of her most popular and biggest songs to date. As a passionate music fan, an avid concert goer, and an enthusiastic music journalist, I’ve witnessed a number of awe-inspiring sing-along moments between artists and their fans. From packed arenas to sold-out shows at Joe’s Bar on Weed Street, I’ve seen it all, and each experience left their own special impact on me. This particular moment though, was different. Standing in the middle of Soldier Field during the loudest and largest sing-along to “Love Story” felt…magical. And it was no doubt one of many unforgettable moments on the Reputation Stadium Tour.
Everything about the Reputation Tour is flawless and of epic proportions. From talented and energetic opening acts, Charli XCX and Camila Cabello, to the theatrics and high-quality production, there is nothing even remotely mediocre about Taylor Swift’s latest, biggest, and best tour yet. While everyone else seems to be fascinated by the giant inflatable snakes (one for each stage) the singer brought with her this time, there are certainly more note-worthy aspects of the show that deserve the attention and focus. Yes, it was hard to ignore the colossal 110-foot-tall main stage with two catwalks and its massive four screen video wall, or the two B stages that were each bigger than the 1989 World Tour main stage. The small army of back-up dancers and singers that accompanied Swift on stage are some of the most skillful I’ve seen, and the digital projections on screen were as captivating as the fireworks and jet-flamers set to be in-sync with certain songs. Even the confetti cannon used during the singer’s vibrant performance of “Shake It Off,” at which point she brought out her tour mates to perform the smash hit with her, was impressive. Swift’s Reputation Tour has everything and more that’s probably “expected” from an A-list artist’s major tour at this point in their career. Most impressive, though, is the way Swift performs after almost three years off from touring without ever missing a beat.
The charismatic singer performed for two hours that night, separating her setlist into six acts. While a large portion of Swift’s song selection for this tour naturally consisted of 14 of the 15 songs on her Reputation album, there was also a surprising chunk of real crowd pleasers and fan favorites from her back catalogue that she chose to include. I could describe each song’s presentation for you in detail, but you might never get through this review. The other option is to provide you with a highlight reel, only picking out what I thought stood out most, but that would be nearly impossible because when your song catalogue looks like Swift’s, there aren’t good and bad songs. There are only great songs. Honestly, and I do not say this lightly, each song included in the singer’s setlist was as good or better than and as equally entertaining as the next. Swift never lost the crowd’s interest, not for a second. There’s a reason her tours have been so widely successful and popular, and her stage production is only a small fraction of the reason. Love her or hate her, Taylor Swift is one of the best live artists you will ever see.
In the midst of all the fireworks and the dancing and the wild stage antics, it was clear that the tour’s strongest moments are also the singer’s most vulnerable. While spending time on the second stage, she explained to the crowd that no matter how big this thing gets, no matter how far her career stretches, her songwriting process remains the same. It has always started with an idea and either her guitar or a piano. And to demonstrate her point, she did an acoustic rendition of “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” from her Reputation album. The biggest surprise of the night, though, followed as Swift proceeded to play (also on the acoustic guitar) her first #1 hit for Soldier Field, a song she happened to write for her 9th grade talent show, because she knows her fans have always loved her country songs. Despite being the third largest city in the country, Chicago has some die-hard country music fans, so you can imagine the reaction this triggered. It’s important to point out that up until this point on her tour, Swift was performing “All Too Well” acoustically during this portion of the show. To switch it up in Chicago and to take it all the way back to her first album was an incredible moment fans that night will never forget.
Although the conclusion critics seem to be coming to is that the theme of the Reputation Stadium Tour, and the Reputation album in general, is revenge because of the symbolism of snakes, I found myself coming to a different conclusion after Swift’s first of a two-night stint in Chicago over the first weekend in June. Yes, Reputation is lyrically and stylistically bolder and darker than anything else the brilliant singer-songwriter has previously released. Underneath the surface layer of anger and bitterness, though is the same person that’s always been there – the beautiful, kind-hearted soul who is unapologetically afraid to be herself and always willing to share her most personal thoughts and moments with her fans so that they don’t ever have to feel alone. I think a common misconception about Taylor after Reputation was released was that she’s lost her spark, and she’s not the same Taylor anymore, and that she’s so far gone from where she started. Well, of course she’s a different person. She’s not 12 years old anymore; she’s 28 and she’s been through A LOT since then. She’s also handled it amazingly well and managed to be an exceptional role model for young girls. She’s walked out of the fire with her head held high, getting to have the last laugh. Musically speaking, though, if there was ever any doubt about Swift “forgetting where she came from,” well…those thoughts surely have to be squashed now by anyone who has seen her Reputation Stadium Tour.
In what was probably the single most powerful moment of the night, Swift took a seat at a piano and began speaking to the crowd as if talking to a friend in her living room. She talked about the relationship between her and her fans, and how they were all still there waiting for her after her break from music and social media because they’re the ones who really understand her, after all. Swift basically told those in attendance that it’s not about what the moral majority of people think about you. It only matters what those who understand you think. It was then that the chords to “Long Live,” the album closer and a true gem of a song on her third album, Speak Now, filled the air and mesmerized a sold-out Soldier Field. It was at this time that I remembered something I witnessed earlier, before the show even started. A group of three teenage girls in dragon onesies with signs around their necks that read – I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you – approached a girl in front of me (approximately around the same age as them) and complimented her sequin dress and matching shoes. They talked to her, they took photos together, and exchanged phone numbers after one of the girls asked if she was there alone. Curiosity got the best of me and I then initiated a conversation with the one of the dragon onesie girls who started the whole thing. The girl told me that she didn’t want anyone to ever feel alone at a concert, especially a Taylor Swift one. She proceeded to tell me how she attended the 1989 World Tour alone and that no one would talk to her and how it was just a lonely feeling, and why would she want to treat someone else like that when the person she idolizes (Swift) goes out of her way to make everyone feel like they belong. There are grown adults who don’t comprehend this logic, but here was an adolescent/young adult extending kindness to a total stranger for no reason other than she was influenced and inspired by Taylor Swift.
As I remembered that moment while listening to Taylor Swift shift effortlessly back and forth from “Long Live” to “New Years Day,” the piano ballad and closing track from Reputation, my heart was overwhelmed with this warming feeling that made me forget about how unusually and ridiculously chilly it was for a June night in Chicago. The impact Taylor Swift has had was seen in many of her fans that night. Whether it was in the way total strangers left with new friends because of their kind-heartedness or it was in the carefree and confident way they carried themselves because they weren’t afraid to show up alone and dance their hearts out. You see, the Reputation Tour isn’t about revenge and snakes, or even how many stages one artist could fit inside one football stadium. Through her songwriting and her relationship with her fans Swift demonstrates that it’s okay to be who you are, stand up for yourself and for others, and to be kind to everyone you meet until given a reason not to. She has been putting her personal life out there for everyone to hear and judge and make fun of since she was a teenager, and by doing so has shown others that it’s okay to feel too much and to put those feelings on display if that’s what’s going to help you get through whatever you’re going through.
Music is art and art is meant to evoke emotion, and I know no other artist that can evoke emotion the way Taylor Swift can. If you see the Reputation Stadium Tour, I promise you will leave a changed person. This tour is full of too many powerful moments for anyone attending not to be positively affected.
…Ready For It
I Did Something Bad
Medley: Style/Love Story/You Belong With Me
Look What You Made Me Do
King of My Heart
Shake It Off (feat. Charli XCX & Camila Cabello)
Dancing With Our Hands Tied (acoustic)
Our Song (acoustic)
Bad Blood/Should Have Said No
Don’t Blame Me
Long Live/New Years Day
Call It What You Want
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together/This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things