Taylor Swift, Needtobreathe, James Wesley and Charlie Worsham
October 8, 2011
Better than: Watching a Broadway Musical
Surrounded by just under 50,000 adoring fans, Taylor Swift put on a performance Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium that was so big, it nearly dwarfed the sizeable venue itself.
It was the singer's Speak Now tour, an extravaganza of light and sound that turned each and every song into a theatrical experience. The lights were blinding, the sound overloaded with instrumentation and the sets so huge that it was hard to believe they could be disassembled in time for the next show.
In other words, it was an event.
But, like all spectacular musical experiences, one wonders if the songs fell victim to the show.
Look: Taylor Swift is a talented singer-songwriter. Plus, she's not bad to look at. But after seeing her in person, I feel kind of like I got run over.
Swift's relatively simple pop-country ditties have been kidnapped and reshaped into mini-Broadway musicals on this tour.
Take for example the title track from her most recent record and for this tour, "Speak Now." An entire wedding is arranged so that Swift can act out the lyrics in which an old boyfriend is preparing to tie the knot and the singer is about to speak now or forever hold her piece. It was an impressive piece of staging -- as was true of the entire show -- but was it all too much?
Sure, these days, shows that take place in arenas have turned into over-the-top spectacles that have to be more than just the music in order to justify the lofty ticket price. But there just has to be a time to pull things back a bit.
I know it will never come to pass, but I would like to hear Swift in a small theater with a tight four-piece band making songs like "Mine" and "The Story of Us" shine in a much simpler context.
Instead, everything is planned, rehearsed and executed with a precision that is almost frightening. Even Swift's initial "Oh my God!" reaction to the adoring crowd appeared scripted. You could almost just see someone backstage speaking into Swift's earpiece: "OK, say 'Oh my God!' in three, two, one..."
Of course, none of this mattered to the huge, mostly female, crowd.
Fans screamed at every syllable. Swift could have burped and received an ovation. She is truly a remarkable, pop culture phenomenon. Hordes of young women emulate every facet of the singer's persona, from make-up to dance movements.
No surprise there: Swift's one of the seminal performers of her generation. She is at the pinnacle of her career and she is only 21 years old.
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But I still feel like I got ran over.
Personal Bias: I've never liked shows in stadiums. I feel like an ant lost in the ant hill. This was my first time in the Death Star, and I thought I would be more impressed. It's big and shiny but give me the Kessler or the Granada any day of the week.
By The Way: All three opening acts had good moments, but Needtobreathe's set was especially impressive. These South Carolinians seem arena-ready, and were unfazed by the cavernous surroundings.
Random Note: With the Rangers game taking place at the exact same time as this concert, there were roughly 100,000 people paying too much for food, beer and parking in Arlington on Saturday. At least Swift's fans didn't get rained on; Cowboys Stadium's retractable roof was thankfully closed on this night.