Taylor Swift proves her pop dominance on 'The Eras Tour'
Taylor Swift brought "The Eras Tour" to Cincinnati for the first of two massive sold-out shows at Paycor Stadium.
Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” is undeniably the concert event of the year, and well on its way to becoming the highest-grossing concert tour of all time. With over a million tickets sold so far and significant economic impacts in every city she visits, this is the kind of tour that only comes along once in an — excuse me — era.
Although excitement around the show had been building for weeks, with fans lining up just for merch in the wee hours of the morning, the show itself didn’t begin until the first opener Gracie Abrams took the stage just before 6 p.m. Abrams, whose debut album Good Riddance just released in February of this year, is well-positioned to become a pop sensation. The 23-year-old singer-songwriter has a fanbase that already includes heavy hitters like Billie Eilish and Post Malone, as well as her father J. J. Abrams. She performed an efficient five-song set before handing the stage off to MUNA, an exuberant trio of queer musicians that made a big splash in 2021 with their irresistibly sunny hit “Silk Chiffon.” WFPK listeners will be no strangers to MUNA, who visited us less than a year ago for an exclusive acoustic performance in our studio. Now playing before a sold-out stadium on one of the largest stages in the world, the group’s highly danceable anthems to queer joy translated perfectly to the large venue, and the audience was handily won over by their enthusiasm for being there.
After thoroughly warming up the already quite warm crowd, the countdown for Taylor Swift begins — literally. A massive LED wall stretching the width of the stadium displays a clock that counts down the seconds until the beginning of the show. As the countdown strikes zero and an array of pink and purple shell-shaped tapestries take the stage, the crowd explodes with excitement knowing that one of them conceals the star of tonight’s show. When the tapestries billow upwards and Swift is revealed in her first glamorously sequined costume of the night, the show is on.
Ostensibly, “The Eras Tour” is designed as a retrospective of Swift’s career to this point, dividing the set into ‘eras’ based around her studio albums. With the exception of two surprise songs per show, the setlist remains the same — 44 songs, performed in excess of 3 hours, with no intermissions. It’s a superhuman feat that Swift is able to put on this show, and her stamina for performing evokes the discipline of seasoned Broadway performers more than pop singers.
The influence that theater has had on her stage production is made more evident by the set pieces for each era (or act, if you prefer). In addition to a massive LED wall stretching the width of the stadium, large multi-story sets would occasionally reveal themselves for Swift and her dancers to perform on. These range from a series of connected office environments during her blazer-adorned performance of “The Man” to a moss-covered house in the middle of the woods, evoking the cottagecore aesthetic that Swift helped popularize during her folklore era. Of course all the classic concert effects were present too — blasts of pyro and smoke, confetti that fans eagerly collected from the floor after the show, and even fireworks that were complemented by additional fireworks from the nearby Cincinnati Reds victory.
Perhaps the most innovative piece of performance technology came in the form of fan-worn LED bracelets first introduced during Swift’s 1989 tour in 2015. The bracelets are worn by fans throughout the stadium and respond to a massive infra-red signal the same way that a television responds to a remote control. Using this technology, the tour is able to create animations of light across the stadium — waves and pulses, slithering snakes, raindrops and bursts… It’s similar to when an artist asks the audience to pull out their flashlights, but in this case the artist controls all the flashlights and can synchronize thousands upon thousands of them at once. Having the ability to activate and control all these lights in a sold out stadium is like being able to turn on magic with a button.
Speaking of magic, one of the most magical moments of the evening came at a point just before the final era when Swift takes the stage solo to perform two songs unique to each stop of the tour. The first song was “I’m Only Me When I’m With You” off of her 2006 debut, a song she introduced as one she wrote when she was 13-years-old. Two decades later, the 33-year-old with an acoustic guitar had an entire stadium full of fans jumping over the chorus. The second surprise song was the title track from 2020's evermore, which Swift played on a moss-laden piano. Released during the height of the pandemic, this very special occasion marked the first time the song has been performed live.
Another surprise element of “The Eras Tour” is that you never know who will show up to see it. In Cincinnati, actress Millie Bobby Brown showed up with her fiancé Jake Bongiovi (the son of… you guessed it!). Perhaps just as surprising was Cincinnati local Emilio Estevez, who may have had a shorter commute to the concert but chose not to bedazzle his face with a Lover-era heart the way Brown and many others in attendance had.
You don’t have to be a Swiftie to recognize that Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” is not your average concert experience. No matter how you slice it, the tour has been smashing records across the country and has already become one of highest-grossing concert tours of all time. It’s not even halfway over and it’s already grossed more than the next two biggest concert tours this year combined (Bruce Springsteen and Harry Styles). By the time it touches down on its 6th continent, there’s a strong chance “The Eras Tour” will have become the highest-grossing concert tour in history.
To the Swifties lucky enough to experience “The Eras Tour” in person, these numbers don’t matter. They’re getting the show of a lifetime from a living legend at the peak of her performing ability. Taylor Swift is very nearly in a class of her own when it comes to cultural influence and power, and though she may continue shaping the world we live in for decades to come, she may never be able to do it with the same level of energy and enthusiasm that she has now. Taylor is on top of the world right now, and she has a keen ability to make her fans feel like they’re on top of the world with her.
“I hope every time you hear one of these songs after tonight you’ll always think of this concert,” she said early in the show.
Don’t worry Taylor. No one will ever forget seeing “The Eras Tour.”