America's country pop princess is a bit of a sweetheart
The serial dater with the knack for creating perfect little pop hooks is set to become the first solo female to do a full national stadium tour of Australia in 20 years (as opposed to those piddling arena tours) – the last one was Madge (also, please come back Madge).
Time Out Sydney review:
Outside of Moore Park it must have felt like the Pied Piper had come to town and vanished with every girl child in the city. And they wouldn’t be far wrong. But it was catchy tunes about heartbreak, not a tin flute, that had drawn Sydney’s youth to Allianz Stadium and filled every one of those 40,000 seats that didn’t need to be occupied by a parent or guardian.
And although this writer is guilty of having a secret Swift playlist, my affection for America’s Sweetheart paled into insignificance when faced with a football stadium lit up with handmade signs and outfits that boasted tinsel, sequins, glitter, diamantes and countless fairylight strands. Fire hazards be damned, this crowd were devoted fans.
Although opening tracks ‘State of Grace' and ‘Holy Ground’ felt a little stilted, by track three – the titular track from latest album Red – Swift warmed up and as the concert progressed she became visibly more comfortable, never more so than when she had an instrument to play. ‘Mean’, with banjo in hand, an acoustic and unaccompanied renditition of ‘You Belong With Me’ and sitting behind a piano for ‘All Too Well’ were easily her most relaxed and natural performances.
When it came time for ’22’, her fourth single off Red, you finally understood that talented as she is, Taylor Swift is also a bit of a dork. And here in lies her appeal. She may be a talented songwriter and singer, but she is also a gangly, skinny girl of 23 who can’t really dance – and the crowd loved her for it.
And Swift seems genuinely fond of her fans in return. The little girl who received Swift's hat was so star struck she burst into tears; Swift also went out of her way to shake as many hands as possible during her progress from the main stage to the cherry picker stage up the back of the stadium.
For older members of the crowd, her insistence on explaining the emotional context of songs like ‘Red’, ‘Mean’, and ‘You Belong With Me’ felt like the ramblings of a teenager's diary, but that is because Swift isn’t really talking to them. Like the cool, older cousin you always wanted, she was sitting back in one of many pairs of high-waisted shorts and sparkly brogues, strumming a guitar and telling her young fans that “If someone doesn’t want to like you, it’s not your job to make them."
She saved her big sing-along chart toppers for last, and ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ got a similar Renaissance styling as it did at her Grammys performance this year. She then swapped the risqué (by Swift standards) black body suit for an angelic prom dress for ‘Love Story’ – but they saved the best for last with ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’. Here the production really unleashed the carnival with circus back-up dancers, confetti cannons, fireworks, and Swift front and centre in a sequined ringmaster's jacket atop a revolving stage arm that lifted her out over the crowd.
Sure, at times awkward dance routines and nervous chatter suggest Swift is still getting used to her evolution from country to pop, but she has the power of sweet vocals, a genial manner and songs you just can’t get out of your head on her side. She’s doing just fine.