Taylor Swift’s massive 1989 world tour comes to an end in Melbourne this weekend with a three night run kicking off last night (Thursday) at AAMI Park.
As the name suggests, the show focusses heavily on tracks from her Max Martin- produced pop opus 1989 with a smattering of her older tracks, Love Story, I Knew You Were Trouble and We Are Never Getting Back Together thrown in and remixed to fit in with the sheen of her latest material.
I, like the thousands of mostly teenage girls and their mothers in the crowd, was excited to see this show and coughed up $180 to do so (no review tix here). As a pop album 1989 is a very polished piece of work and I was keen to see Taylor bring it to life — yet, I reluctantly admit I was underwhelmed.
This tour is big on spectacle from the enormous video screens, rotating stages, hordes of dancers, flashing audience wrist bands and a hydraulic catwalk that thrust a securely tethered Tay Tay out above her adoring crowd. If spectacle is what you are after in a concert — then this show delivered in spades.
For me, therein lay the problem. There was little connection between Taylor and her audience. She was dwarfed by the production of her songs with the backing vocals rendering her a bit player in many of the tracks. And she was significantly dwarfed by the staging.
Nothing about the show felt real or like it made a genuine connection with us – especially the video interludes when Taylor’s squad (Lena Dunham, HAIM, Selene Gomez etc) would bang on about what Taylor was ‘really’ like. These interludes were self-indulgent; rather than bringing the crowd closer to Taylor, they actually made her seem even less accessible.
Even the wrist bands (given as a ‘gift” upon entry) that illuminated in time with the music, served to highlight the show’s inauthenticity. Whether you liked the show or not, the wristbands automatically flashed and pulsed so the whole audience appeared to be moving in time to every track.
In many respects Taylor tied to the hydraulic lifter was a poignant metaphor of the tour for me — a shining pop starlet securely bound to the heavy (and admittedly spectacular) staging and artifice. There was no danger, no risks, little genuine connection.
To be fair, pop music by its nature is seldom genuine or risky and this tour was a solid representation of how far down that rabbit hole Taylor has gone.
Like her album, the show was scripted and polished within an inch of its life. Yes it was fun, yes it was dazzling — but I couldn’t help but yearn for a moment of unscripted connection.