Live Report: Taylor Swift – Wembley Stadium, London

The record-breaking tour hits London...

It’s an odd experience to attend a show that everyone has been talking about since its April 2023 debut. In the past year, the Eras tour has travelled the US, South America, Japan, Australia, Singapore, continental Europe, and now, finally, arrives in London.

Taylor Swift is everywhere: TikTok, the radio, the silver screen, streaming platforms, and at the top of the charts. She’s in the news on topics ranging from gas-guzzling private jets and her footballer boyfriend to whether she has enough power to influence the US election results.

There’s no escaping Taylor Swift, and this has led to polarisation between the fanatics and the haters. Sometimes, amidst rifts between toxic fandoms, the actual music gets lost in the discussion.

The Eras tour encapsulates the entirety of Swift’s astoundingly near two-decade career into 10 periods. She’s a young woman, but not a young artist. As someone Swift’s age, I’ve grown up with her, as have so many in the audience. Her songs are memory-catchers: personal, accessible, and relatable.

She introduces 2008’s ‘Fearless’ as a trip back to high school. She’s outgrown it, we’ve outgrown it, but getting blasted into the past and revisiting moments you thought you’d forgotten is a fulfilling ride.

Then there’s Red’s glorious entrance, with the stage powerfully illuminated in scarlet shades, Swift confidently walks out to the catwalk in her text t-shirt (“Who is Taylor Swift anyway? Ew”) and a black fedora. She’s not 22 anymore; this fashion isn’t in anymore, but, boy, what a fun time to revisit.

Some moments will always stay evergreen: Red’s ‘All Too Well’ stands out as a highlight. For anyone who’s ever felt heartbreak, lines like “And you call me up again just to break me like a promise” still cut like a knife and feel so intimate you forget the 80,000-strong crowd around you.

Reputation comes as a burst of frantic energy, with the booming bass of “Ready For It” sending shockwaves around the arena, and “Look What You Made Me Do” similarly levels up the energy. Up until now, the show has been flawless.

But there is something wrong with the Eras tour: its pacing. The Evermore/ Folklore segment is too long; the winding introduction for ‘Betty’ and Swift’s speech about lockdown are mood dampeners. It’s a lacklustre comedown after such a euphoric Reputation act.

The 1989 era offers promise, but epic pop bangers like ‘Bad Blood’ are bizarrely too short (why would you spend so much time on “cardigan” and such little time on ‘Bad Blood’!?).

This is followed by seven songs from the new The Tortured Poets Department, an album that just isn’t stadium material. Like Evermore and Folklore, TTPD could do well in a smaller, more intimate setting, but feels subpar after hearing Swift’s anthemic pop hits.

Midnights is a solid album and a standout era, so “Karma” is a powerful finish. It’s just a shame that it comes after the show has been dragged out by some of Swift’s lesser-quality work.

As you can tell by this review, I’m not a Swiftie. I do think some of her songs are masterful and stand out among the most brilliant pop of our times. She’s a phenomenal performer, an icon, a superstar: but this show was still 40 minutes too long.

Words: Charis McGowan

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