Taylor Swift’s reputation Stadium Tour is brazen, bold and intimate – all at the same time.
12 years ago, a 16-year-old girl from Pennsylvania jumped head first into the music industry. Many in the same situation have crumbled and cracked under the industry’s ever-growing pressures. However, the former queen of country and reigning queen of pop Taylor Swift did not. Even after the Kimye phone gate situation, Swift did not break. Instead, she took it in her stride and embraced her newest title as the resident Queen of Snakes, a title that has left its mark all over the stage of Swift’s latest – and largest – tour, the reputation stadium tour, which stopped in Ireland’s Croke Park for history-making back to back shows.
Taylor Swift’s reputation stadium tour is an unrelenting mix of camp, brazen stadium numbers that make the 68,000 capacity stadium feel even more mammoth than it already is and small, intimate cuts that shrink the crowd to the size of even the smallest of indie gigs. The show may have many moving parts complete with elaborate sets, dancers and fireworks but there is only one star and anyone who thinks otherwise will be swiftly proven wrong.
Swift’s support acts do their best with the time they’re given and, surprisingly, it is Charli XCX that manages to actually make an impression. Her short but impressive set builds a buzz by combining hits such as the now infamous ‘I Love It’ and ‘Boom Clap’ with lesser known tracks such as ‘Unlock It’ and latest release ‘5 in the Morning’. Regardless of whether XCX is performing a hit or a deep cut, her performance is at all times stadium-sized and that manages to keep the crowd engaged. The same cannot be said for fellow support act Camila Cabello, who, despite having smash hit ‘Havana’ in her repertoire, fails to keep the momentum that XCX builds going as she makes her way through a sluggish, overly long and overly remixed set that peaks with a short cover of Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’.
Despite their efforts, the two support acts can’t seem to shake the shadow of Swift, who’s face looms on screen throughout both acts’ sets as almost a promise of what’s to come. It is after Cabello and XCX have had their turns that the true performance begins. The show opens with an interlude on how Swift’s reputation has built to her current status as the Queen of Snakes, swelling to its peak before the crowd is blasted with a sudden ‘Baby, let the games begin’ of reputation’s opening track ‘…Ready For It?’. A perfect concert opener, the performance sets Swift firmly in the centre of the spotlight before anything else is even on the stage. Swift’s live performance elevates the pounding assault of bass and brilliance of ‘…Ready For It?’, and poses the perfect question that sets up the entire rest of the show. The show moves quickly through its set, with highlights ranging from the dramatic and unhinged ‘I Did Something Bad’ and the sheer power of the vocal Olympics that is ‘Don’t Blame Me’ to the quiet intimacy of fan-favourite ‘Long Live’ and album closer ‘New Year’s Day’, a mash-up that proves that despite the scale of the production surrounding her, Swift doesn’t need it to fill a stadium.
Regardless of the song or performance, Swift manages to fill the astronomical space of Croke Park, whether it be with the support of crowd singing along to hits such as ‘Shake It Off’ and ‘Love Story’ or with the mere strength of her own voice and character on tracks such as ‘Should’ve Said No’ from her debut or deep cuts like ‘Dress’ or ‘Dancing With Our Hands Tied’ from reputation. 12 years on, Swift knows it no longer matters what she sings, the crowd in the palm of her hand. Her confidence drips off the stage in an awe-inspiring display of just how brilliant a pop show can be.
Her belief in herself is displayed in her unwavering determination to leave behind old hits that are guaranteed to please the crowd such as ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ and ‘Wildest Dreams’ in favour of new material that not even half of the 68,000 people present know the words to. Instead, she knows fully that no matter what she sings, she will capture their attention. She doesn’t need the fireworks or the dancers. She has herself, a star that cannot be outshined no matter how many times it has been beaten down.
Taylor Swift’s reputation may well be notorious, but her reputation tour easily eclipses it. The high scale production and incredible performance value redefines what a concert experience should and will be. However, Swift makes sure that even with everything going on around her, this tour, and the pop music industry as a whole, is nothing without her.
To read Alternatively Pop’s review of Swift’s sixth studio album reputation, go here.