23 June 2018 (gig)
25 June 2018
It’s testament to Taylor Swift’s abilities that despite a, myriad of slick dance routines, sharply produced video vignettes, lavish set dressings, a golden float, and a troop of men with some very large drums, that the 28-year-old comes out the other side the star of her Wembley Show.
For those now perplexed as to how it could be tricky for the headliner to be the focus of their own set, ask yourself this question. Of all the bombastic performances you have witnessed at Eurovision, for example, how many do you remember for the sheer talent of the artist and not just the goofy dancers and set dressing?
If you came up blank, then you now see the point and if you reeled off a list then congratulations, you’re a rare breed indeed.
The night’s fare consists largely of Taylor’s latest effort and tour namesake reputation with other selected songs from the discography occasionally cameoing. The power pack of ‘Ready For It?’ and ‘I Did Something Bad’ gets things off to a promising start.
The former draws the listener in with massive pulsating beats designed to make your feet tingle, while the latter is the pure pop package.
‘I Did Something Bad’ is a bold and brash satire of the media saturated perceptions of its artist. “They say I did something bad, but why's it feel so good?, most fun I ever had”, the American sings over an imposing synth and drums.
Confident lyrics and a delectable backing track make the early number an irresistible pleasure.
The sweet hearted ‘Love Story’ and ‘You Belong with Me’ are amalgamated into the evening. A quick trip back to simpler times. A moody video of Swift donning a snake riddled throne heralds us in to, shall we say, eminently more complexed ones.
Taylor Swift has had a bumpy ride with social media and the press in recent years. Some contributions have been valid critiques of their subject’s missteps while others have been overblown pronouncements about, politics, personality, and integrity. The record and now by extension the tour, caricatures media portrayals, notes the artist’s displeasure at her treatment, and seeks to move on from the hullabaloo.
Appropriately, dark send up, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ kicks the show’s spectacle up a notch. The 10-time Grammy winner plays the heel on a lyrically apt tilted stage, Tiffany Haddish pops in to declare the old Taylor dead, and large snakes take prominence on the secondary stages.
It would be easy to be overwhelmed by the set pieces and the razzmatazz, but the songstress brings with her a cool, calm, and collected stage presence. Whether conversing with the masses in her typically endearing style, executing her dance spots with her team, or belting out tunes from a golden float, Swift is in confident control of the musical Blockbuster.
Swift eases through the likes of the gospel influenced number, ‘Don’t Blame Me’, the high-octane mashup of ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘Should’ve Said No’, and the love story gone wrong ‘Getaway Car’.
The leading lady’s voice has certainly improved over the years but, her backing crooners deserve special mention for supporting their star through some of the heavy hitters by rounding out the vocal pallet.
Although the chaps on the mixing desk are largely on point, Swift’s voice seems to get lost in the cadre during some of the sonically busier tracks. While this mixing style cuts Swift some slack and attempts to show her in the best light, the move is frustrating because the event more than proves the chart topper can hold her own.
With imposing computerized beats, sing-along hooks, and lyrics ripe for translation into visual motifs the sixth studio effort is a solid centerpiece in a fun evening.
Unfortunately, in electing to play virtually all of the most recent work (‘So It Goes’ has oddly failed to make the tour set list) previous LPs feel a little neglected. There is disappointingly no room for enjoyable staples of previous years, ‘All Too Well’, ‘Clean’, and ‘Wildest Dreams’. Although, space is made for one unplugged substitution a show, it would be far from a bad thing to hear older albums get a more consistent airing
Nevertheless, the crowd lap up every second, dancing to the knowingly melodramatic ‘Gorgeous’, hollering Red’s breakup hit ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’, and just generally screaming their adoration at every available opportunity.
Swift is a top artist in part because of her ability to craft a hit, but it’s the slower acoustic tracks that demonstrates that she is a world-class lyricist.
‘Fifteen’ tells the emotional story of a young naïve high school love, the fairytale belief that they are the one, and learning from the heartbreaking mistakes of the past. A piano led pairing of Speak Now’s ‘Long Live’ and reputation’s ‘New Year’s Day’ are also a poignant listen, about camaraderie, fighting through the good and the bad, and an enduring love.
These three songs are easily the highlight of the set. They are, real, raw, and relatable. The discography has always provided a heartfelt or fun experience, but when it’s author is firing on all cylinders she is able to produce a truly visceral connection.
With a few final flashy salvos, including, a surprise sing-along with Robbie Williams, an unashamed shot at a certain famous rapper (‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’) and the last of the fireworks budget spent, proceedings come to a triumphant end.
The punters are sent home happy and Taylor Swift’s reputation, as one who sits at the peak of pop is affirmed. It would seem she found her kingdom’s keys after all.