BY DAN GARCIA
Taylor Swift’s marquee and household name is the reason she sold-out back-to-back nights at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the biggest venue in Chicago. Talented opening acts, amazing costumes, beautiful light shows, pyrotechnics, and surprise guests aside, the 1989 World Tour is successful (from a numbers standpoint) because of who T-Swift is as a pop star. But all that extra stuff, the things that make her concerts memorable and well after the tickets are long gone, those are the things that make her live performance special, which ensure that those same fans that went through the gates tonight are the ones that will sit on their computer while they await for the next tour’s tickets to go on-sale. The only problem? As word-of-mouth spreads and fans who are ready to see Taylor for their second, third, or fourth time are joined by those who heard of Swift’s epic performances from a friend and want to see first hand, there won’t be enough room and Soldier Field may need to prepare to book a third night for the next time Swift comes to the Windy City. Having just experienced my first Taylor Swift concert, I am certain that it won’t be my last, as the ‘Bad Blood’ singer puts on a tour that matches her massive record sales, wide influence, and her elite status as a modern pop icon.
On her current leg of the tour, Swift is joined by 16-year-old Shawn Mendes, ‘Riptide’ singer Vance Joy, and the pop-rock sisters of Haim. Shawn Mendes, an emerging singer whose initial fame came from the mobile web app Vine, kicked things off in his Blackhawks shirt as the crowd started to fill in. Mendes performed a number of his top songs from his debut studio album, Handwritten, such as ‘Stitches’, ‘Life Of The Party’, ‘Something Big’ and more. Over a half-hour later, and after many teen girls’ hearts were melted in the Chicago summer, Mendes passed the torch to Australian singer-songwriter Vancy Joy. An artist who first got into music through performing covers, the highlight of Vance Joy’s set came as he closed out his set with a performance of ‘Riptide’, a successful single of his own that is surely being covered by the next wave of young emerging artists. To close the talented lists of opening acts were the pop-rockers of Haim, whose sound contrasts from the other 1989 Tour artists. The girls definitely made tens of thousands of new fans in Chicago, because despite the change of tempo, the Los Angeles band simply rocks too hard to not enjoy.
As sun finally fell, three great opening acts paved the way for the performance that everyone was there for. While other artists have clubs or arenas with roofs to keep in the roar from the crowd (unlike that of Soldier Field), T-Swift didn’t need it. While her production kicked off before her introduction to Chicago’s second sold-out night, you could feel the anticipation through the energy of the stadium. At moments you could almost feel the vibration from the screams of the mostly teenage (but still surprisingly diverse) crowd. And to open her 1989 Tour performance of course was the opening to her latest LP of the same name, ‘Welcome To New York’. In the entirety of her nearly 20-song setlist, Swift performed her entire 1989 album, a full-length project that has received a lot of critical acclaim and massive commercial success.
Don’t be fooled by the tour’s name, while Swift performed the entirety of her latest album, she does not forget her country roots and her transition from her self-titled debut album to her new pop sound. Taylor sprinkled in a number of fan favorites from her 2008 album Fearless, such as ‘Love Story’ and an intimate acoustic performance where Swift brought out her guitar for ‘Mean’, a song which she performed for the first time on the 1989 World Tour. And despite her domination on the radio, fans did not just hear studio version replicas of her hits, rather Swift performed various live re-works of some of her biggest tracks. Another highlight of her performance, beyond the music itself, was all the production that clearly went into this tour. Various costume changes with video greetings from some of Swift’s famous and closest friends to keep the crowd occupied, pyrotechnics, fireworks and LED wristbands that created for a beautiful light show at Soldier Field, talent dancers to back up Taylor’s spotlight, and of course adding to her publicized and impressive list of surprise guests with a duet performance with country music’s Sam Hunt. All of the above made the night a stand out, leaving every T-Swift fan happy, and showing why Taylor is killing it right now. She has the voice that can sell millions, a voice that can even get Apple to change its compensation policies. She has the songwriting skills to make her boyfriends think twice before they wrong her. And now I can vouch first-hand that she has the stage presence and ability to create for a memorable live performance.
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