Concert Reviews

The Haters Can Hate, Hate, Hate, But Taylor Swift Ruled at AT&T Stadium

Taylor Swift
With Vance Joy and Shawn Mendes
AT&T Stadium, Arlington
Saturday, October 17, 2015

Who is Taylor Swift? A lot of people. She's a millionaire. The biggest pop star in the world. The girl next door. A singer. A songwriter. A goofball. And, as she made clear with a triumphant, sold-out visit to AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Saturday night, she's a total team player.

Swift wouldn't be where she is, or who she is, otherwise. If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a team of PR people, producers, managers, sound techs, choreographers and stylists to raise a pop star. (Sorry, probably forgetting somebody in there.) It's how it has always been. Elvis had the Colonel. MJ had Quincy Jones. The Beatles had Brian Epstein and George Martin.

You could certainly never put on the sort of production that Swift brings with her 1989 Tour without more than a little help from some friends. From the time she kicked off her two-hour set on Saturday with "Welcome to New York," the evening was an onslaught of glitz, glam and star power. She was joined throughout by a team of 12 dancers, plus Ellie Goulding (who showed up for a duet of "Love Me Like You Do"), a live band, backup singers, fireworks and a runway stage that lifted up and spun around over the heads of the audience. It was pure spectacle.

But Swift did her best to remind everyone — all 60,000 people in the room — that they're a part of Team Taylor, too. This is nothing new either; it's almost essential if you don't want your fans getting lost in a cavernous arena. Her earnest pep talks about enjoying happy moments before they pass and not letting other people's mean comments make you self-conscious were all predictable parts of the template, though they seemed no less authentic for it. Other, smaller details, particularly the wristbands that came hooked to the back of every seat and lit up in unison throughout the show ("I can see every one of you with them," she said), added a personal touch to the requisite crowd participation — which she greeted with a wide-eyed, "aww shucks" enthusiasm. It worked. This was the loudest crowd you'll hear at a show in North Texas in 2015. Even the Rolling Stones, playing the same room four months ago, couldn't hang. They roared with cheers, not just applause, at the end of the songs, and they screamed, not just sang, along so loudly you could hear them over the music. And it wasn't hard to know why: Every time Swift went strutting like a boss down the runway, tousled her hair or gave a playful wink at a flirty lyric, it was a #win for every member of Team Taylor.

Which is part of the trick: Taylor Swift could be anybody. Or, more precisely, anybody could be Taylor Swift. An exceptionally select few actually get to live her particular fantasy, but hey, she's just so darn relatable. She's melodramatic; she crushes on boys; she's a bit of a dork; she loves snacks and cats. She's the (slightly) older sister who looks back on freshman year of high school with reverence. If a nice girl like Swift gets to post selfies on Instagram with Lena Dunham, Selena Gomez and Cara Delevigne (all of whom made video cameos talking about how #squad works together, not against each other), couldn't we all do the same?

Maybe Swift is a little too nice, though. There must be flaws in there somewhere, right? Inevitably, as with any star of her stature, people are always looking for them. She's dating Calvin Harris? They're probably breaking up. She pulled her music off iTunes to stick it to Apple? That's because she's privileged. 1989 has sold over 5,000,000 copies? It's over-produced. It's too slick. She didn't write the songs. They're not hers. Thank god Ryan Adams is around to let us appreciate them. But that's all bullshit. Seeing Swift in person couldn't leave you with any doubts about her star power. She's got "Style," and it's all over her music. Even with all the commotion going on around her, it was Swift, belting out the words to a song like "Blank Space" or "Bad Blood," who carried it. When she took some one-on-one time with the crowd, playing her acoustic guitar on "Fifteen" or the piano on "Wildest Dreams" (another song where she really laid into using her voice), it was a reminder that while she's developed into a multi-faceted song and dance act over time, she can be a one-person show when she wants to be.

Like it or not, you don't get to be as big as Swift — or Elvis, or MJ or the Beatles — without a team like hers. And you sure don't get a team like hers without a person like her to build it around. Not in your wildest dreams.

Welcome to New York
New Romantics
Blank Space
I Knew You Were Trouble
I Wish You Would
How You Get the Girl
I Know Places
Love Story
Bad Blood
Love Me Like You Do (with Ellie Goulding)
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
Wildest Dreams
Out of the Woods
Shake It Off
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Jeff Gage
Contact: Jeff Gage