The Eras Tour
June 10, 2022
Words and Images by Nina Tadic*
*captioned photos courtesy of TAS Rights Management
Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour is something out of every Swiftie’s Wildest Dreams.
Hours before the start of every show, fans are lined up outside of the arena, rain or shine, decked out in every possible variation of a Taylor Swift cosplay imaginable. There are Taylors from every era – Junior Jewels shirts and plaid pajamas from the “You Belong with Me” music video, royal blue flapper-fringe dresses from the “Delicate” music video, big purple sequined shift dresses and blazers paying homage to Taylor’s “Getaway Car” outfit from the Reputation Tour. The Eras Tour is not just a tour, not just a series of concerts, it is a way for fans to honor every era of Taylor they have ever witnessed, the way those eras have shaped their experiences, lives, and the world they live in every day.
By the time doors open at Ford Field, the hoards of people up and down the street for blocks is 99% Taylor fans, recognizable by their costumes, their friendship bracelets, the giddy looks of excitement on their faces, and the crowds are bustling through security to get into the arena. Upon entering, there are fans in matching costumes giggling and screaming as they hug, there are parents and little ones holding hands as they weave through the crowd to find their seats, holding their matching popcorn buckets and drinks.
And then, once everyone is settled in, it begins. First, with a performance by Owenn, one of Taylor’s former dancers, her co-star and love interest in the “Lover” music video, and one of the best up-and-coming pop acts in the business. With a crooning voice and rhythms that are hypnotic, dance moves to make everyone’s jaws drop, and charisma that has all eyes on him, Owenn is one to watch. He is humble, gracious onstage towards Ms. Swift for having him on the tour, and full of visible joy and good energy as he hits every note, plays every song.
Following Owenn, fans are graced with the presence of girl in red, a shoegazey singer-songwriter that has made a name for herself in the indie scene over the past few years. At the young age of 24, she has already had plenty of radio play, with songs like “we fell in love in october” and “serotonin.” Onstage in baggy slacks and a sweater, she is shy and soft-spoken… until she is in the zone. And then she is running back and forth across the stage, shouting out her backing band, talking about her ex girlfriend (with whom she is still on good terms), and playing music about depression, romance, and heartbreak. girl in red is intriguing, gentle, and manages to capture everyone’s attention quite effortlessly.
Once her set is finished, the staticky buzz in the air of adrenaline is tangible. Fans are running, running, across the floor, through the stands, finding their seats, finding friends, shouting, laughing, waiting for the woman of the hour to take the stage.
And then she does.
The Lady Gaga hit “Applause” begins to play, and as fans have already relayed to one another from show to show, this is the last song before Taylor’s set. This is when the rush gets to its highest. And then… the stage turns into a grid of eras photos, with a giant clock in the center, almost at its peak – midnight. As the clock counts down, “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore thrums through the speakers, fans screaming and jumping in their seats. And then the room goes black.
The stage is covered in whorls of smoky black clouds, archways forming on the LED screen backing the stage, and then… as the center of the back panel lifts, a row of dancers come out, waving giant, rippling fans that look like sails of a ship, or blowing flower petals. The clouds begin to swirl and wave more, the dancers’ petals doing the same, and Taylor’s voice is heard on a track, serenading fans with a beautiful composition of her “Miss Americana” lyric “It’s been a long time coming,” stretched out, repeated over and over again. This clip is overlaid with her introductions and expressions of each of her album titles, until finally, as the tension builds, all the dancers pay their petals in a circle on the center of the stage. The music pauses, and as they raise them, all anyone hears is Swift herself singing “It’s been a long time coming but,” and gliding right into “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince.” She is where the petals were just seconds ago, on a pillar of the stage that rises higher and higher as she greets everyone in the audience, their screams so loud it is deafening.
This marks the beginning of the Lover era.
Swift glides smoothly across the stage in her aqua, brown, and gold shimmering bodysuit and matching knee-high boots, sauntering across the stage, fully aware that it is hers, and hers alone. She moves directly from “Miss Americana” to fan favorite (and rumored “song of the summer”) “Cruel Summer,” which makes the crowd go even wilder. During the song, the crowd sings the entire bridge to her (a nightly ritual that has been carried forth from show to show since the beginning of the tour) so clearly that every word could be heard from miles away.
Following “Cruel Summer,” she flirts with the crowd, holding them in the palm of her hand. Swift bats her long lashes, flips her hair, kisses her biceps, and lets them know how powerful she feels. She slips on a black sparkling blazer as she banters and banters, all the way until she lets the crowd know “[they’re] making me feel like I’m the man!” Thus begins Swift’s 2019 feminist anthem, “The Man,” where the background of the stage is the outline of levels of a building, and Swift is moving her way up and up until she is literally at the top. Following this song, the levels of the building miraculously disappear, and the background transforms into the rooms of the widely-adored Lover house.
Taylor then bounces vibrantly into LGBTQIA+ anthem “You Need to Calm Down,” with rainbow bars of light running across the top of the stage, and the first true look at the power of Swift’s shimmering, geo-locating light-up bracelets (her signature tour staple since 2015’s 1989 World Tour). These white bracelets, handed out to every fan as they enter the stadium, pinpoint each fan’s location in the stadium, and are programmed to light up in time, based on their location, throughout the night. During “You Need to Calm Down,” the crowd is a shimmering, strobing slew of colors, and then the stands are lit up like a literal rainbow, color by color doing the wave as they move all the way around the stadium.
The strongest piece of the Eras Tour, which shines through the entire night, is Swift’s interactions with her fans, all 65,000+ of them, during every era. “These songs may have started about me, and my experiences, but I’m hoping that after tonight, for all of you, these songs will be about us,” she proclaimed prior to the beginning of the song “Lover,” being met by wonderful cheers, hand-hearts, and endless clapping. Throughout the song, dancers waltz in pairs around her as she strums her baby blue guitar and serenades the crowd to this magical, twinkling love song. And finally, to close out the Lover era, she performs on a more dimly lit stage, cast with gold, a previously heartbreaking, but now more heartwarming, piece – “The Archer.”
“I’ve been the archer, I’ve been the prey – who could ever leave me, darling? But who could stay?” This song, a heartbreaking track about longing for someone to stick with you, becomes something magnificent and powerful for fans in real time when Swift sings the line “Who could stay? You could stay,” while looking at, smiling at, waving at, every single one of their grinning faces. As she echoes “you could stay,” and walks back up the catwalk, away from her fans, as sparks begin to rain down from the top of the screen. She walks away through the stage, through a curtain of sparks, as the curtain of sparks gets stronger and stronger, until it is sheets of gold raining down onstage (both digital and real pyrotechnics), and the Lover house is suddenly just a frame, being burnt in the golden sparks shimmering down the stage.
And thus begins the Fearless era.
During the Fearless era, Swift’s catwalk is lit in the shape of her silver glittery guitar, she is in a long-fringed dress of sparkling silver, and she plays through three classics – “Fearless,” “You Belong with Me,” and “Love Story,” during all of which she is extremely interactive with the crowd. Dancing and skipping up and down the stage, walking all the way out to the edge of the catwalk, waving to the stands during “You Belong with Me,” holding up her hand-heart during “Fearless,” she is very clearly focused on making this portion of the concert as intimate as it would’ve been as part of the Fearless Tour over a decade ago. In that same vein, she pays heavy tribute to her band and back-up vocalists, making sure they are sharing her spotlight throughout the duration of this era.
The third era Swift addresses is for one of her albums that has never been seen live before – evermore. One of Swift’s “COVID” albums, evermore is a somber, wintery, dreamy body of work from beginning to end, and so is its performance on the Eras Tour. An era that begins with a visualette of melting snow, leaves and pinecones in the wet, icy earth, and then pine trees growing, both digitally on-screen and physically out of the stage floor, itself. Beginning with “‘tis the damn season,” featuring Swift in a flowing, burnt-orange dress, serenading the crowd from in the dimly-lit woods, the evermore era is something right out of a storybook. Swift doesn’t shy away from magic during this set, either – the duration of “willow” takes place with Swift and her dancers covered in green velvety cloaks, tossing golden orbs of light into the air, sparkling light whirling around them, dancers spinning circles around Swift, her pushing and pulling them in every direction without ever touching a hand to a single one of them. As she waves her arms and body, and throws them in one direction or the next, her fellow “witches” move like water around her in the most majestic way.
Following “willow” is a more somber, but cathartic string of songs from the album: “marjorie,” “champagne problems,” and “tolerate it.” “marjorie,” a ballad named for Swift’s late grandmother, is recognized by fans as a chance to help Swift pay tribute to her grandmother by lighting up the entire stadium with their cell phone lights for the entire song. “Thank you, that was truly beautiful. That song was called ‘marjorie,’ and it’s about my grandmother, who passed away when I was 13. She was a singer, and I just know she would’ve loved to sing at Ford Field – and her voice is actually the background on that song, so now she technically has!”
“champagne problems,” is played by Swift at a moss-covered piano, to add to the whimsy of the era, and then, for “tolerate it,” a song about being disregarded and disrespected by a significant other, she literally “polishes plates until they gleam and glisten,” and before long, she’s standing on the table she’s just set for her lover, and standing up for herself, belting out the lyrics, line after line.
And just when fans are getting comfortable, feeling peaceful, the energy in the room shifts as the blackened arena suddenly sees snakes slithering across the screen. Reputation.
Well-versed from the Reputation Tour (both in real life, and on Netflix, of course), their shrieking is instantaneous, and their dance-moves are well-prepared for this fast-paced and fierce set comprised of “…Ready For It?”, “Delicate,” “Don’t Blame Me,” and “Look What You Made Me Do.”
There are two incredible peaks of this era. The first strikes when the incredible beaming spotlights show straight up into the air in a diamond around Swift during her powerhouse vocals in “Don’t Blame Me,” wrapping her in a golden cage of light. She is not just holding the audience at her attention, not just putting on a show – she is the show.
This is emphasized even further during “Look What You Made Me Do,” the track that marked the beginning of the Reputation era in 2017, noted for its music video showing Swift reinventing herself, climbing over all of the past versions of herself to get to the top. Was the video perhaps foreshadowing for the Eras Tour? Regardless, the way Swift pays tribute to it during her performance is more than jaw-dropping.
Countless versions of herself (played by her dancers) – in everything from her teal BCBG Max Azria dress and her custom Liberty Boot Co. cowboy boots from 2007, to her 2019 Wango Tango outfit – a neon rainbow-fringed jacket, corset, and shorts combo that was the talk of the town – are locked in glass cases behind Swift, trying desperately to break out as she teases them, sticking out her tongue, banging on the glass, waving and laughing. Until they all break out, and as Swift is raised on a rising platform at the center of the stage, the many versions of her stand beneath, beating on the pillar, trying to reach her, mimicking the famous scene from the music video.
Once the stage goes black, small patches of blue and violet and white flowers begin to flicker across it, here and there, until the stage is covered in a vivid field of flowers with a glorious purple background, and Swift makes her return – this time, in a floor length, blush pink glimmering, princess ball gown. In a short and sweet tribute to her first entirely self-written album, Speak Now, she sings her hit “Enchanted” to the crowd, while surrounded by a beautiful ring of ballerinas. Like a fairytale or a scene from Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses, this performance leaves everyone wonderstruck.
The versatility of Swift’s performances shows when she makes her way back out for the Red era decked out in a white tee, fedora, shorts, and Keds, like stepping right out of 2012. And in keeping tradition with the original Red era, she is sure to pick a fan from the crowd to give her fedora to during “22” – tonight’s being a very young girl who seems absolutely mesmerized by Swift’s presence as they clasp hands at the end of the catwalk and she receives said hat.
Following an acoustic moment with “All Too Well (Ten Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version)” on the guitar in a dazzling red and black duster and romper, the Red era is completed, and a whopping twenty-three songs have been played – only half of her full night’s performance done, but already more than anyone could expect.
Genres switch again, as we revisit the “COVID years,” with folklore. The halfway point in the night is signified with a spoken-word version of “seven,” played in the background while fans are privileged with an interpretive dance performance in the moonlight (as the stage has now taken on the presence of a firefly-lit wood, a full moon hanging in the background). And then, as the stage lights up, we are taken to the folklore cabin Swift initially invented for the 61st Grammy Awards. Carrying fans through a blend of singles like “betty” and “cardigan,” and deep cuts like “august” directly into “illicit affairs” (with a beautiful watercolor background swirling behind her as she sprints and twirls across the stage in a flowing cream-colored dress).
No one expected the impact, though, of “my tears ricochet,” during which Swift practically hosts her own funeral onstage. Drifting slowly in her white dress like a ghost, her background vocalists shrouding her in their shimmering black gowns, she stares into her audience’s souls as she croons lines about the loss of her masters – “when you can’t sleep at night, you’ll hear my stolen lullabies.” Hurricane whirlpools, sinking ships, candles lit with tears, alternate behind her as visualettes to accompany the tone of the song, and they certainly do the job. Folklore’s strongest trait as an album is its narrative style from one song to the next, and this portion of the set is the same way. Contrasting the heaviness of “my tears ricochet,” and “illicit affairs,” are tracks like “the last great american dynasty,” during which Swift narrates the true story of Rebekah Harkness, the previous owner of her own saltbox home, Holiday House. With dancers acting out Harkness’ life, and Swift singing about it, and tying it to her own life (by now continuing the legacy of wild, adventurous women tied to Holiday House), this is one of the more theatrical pieces of the evening, and it is nothing but splendid fun!
During the 1989 era, Swift tosses and turns in her sheets on-screen, the house she’s in catching in blue flames, “burning it down,” so to speak, during “Wildest Dreams.” The entire Lover house is engulfed in flames for “Bad Blood,” and neon bikes ride across the stage while Swift takes a golf-club to a sports car during “Blank Space.” This era does a great job of tying together her past and present, paying homage to pieces of her live performances from the 1989 World Tour, while also referencing more recent motifs like the Lover house. Her outfit during this one? A beaded and fringed crop top and skirt with accompanying boots based off of one of her 1989 World Tour ‘fits. And she is never going out of style, dressed like that!
The singular most-anticipated portion of the night follows this, when Swift performs her nightly ritual that is the two “surprise songs.” At the beginning of the Eras Tour, she expressed that she will be performing two songs a night that are different from the rest of the setlist as a chance to revisit old favorites and rarities, and intends to play no song more than once (unless she messes it up, perhaps). On the second night at Ford Field, fans are lucky enough to be gifted two very rare and exciting pieces – 1989’s “All You Had To Do Was Stay,” on an acoustic guitar, and then, a far older piece that has not been heard in quite some time… “Breathe,” off of Fearless, performed on her beautiful, floral-painted piano. The most amusing part of this combination is definitely the way fans were able to pick up on what the songs were without more than a word or a sound. For “All You Had To Do Was Stay,” Swift made her introduction by saying that she really wanted to play a certain song, but wasn’t sure if fans would be able to sing along with the very high-pitched “stay” that happens in it. At the word “stay,” the crowd erupted into screams, before singing every single word. For “Breathe,” all it took was Swift humming the first few notes for fans to pick up on it. Two heart-wrenching songs, one more upbeat in sound, and one that aches to hear, were both given the same level of excitement and respect from fans across the board.
Following the performance, Swift dove into the catwalk, and was promptly transported back to the head of the stage, while an animation of her swimming played across the screen.
Finally, the night is closed out with the most recent era – Midnights, during which Swift is a glistening jewel in a lilac shift dress and fuzzy coat for “Lavender Haze,” and “Anti-Hero,” and then begins to sparkle in a deeper blue as she performs the magic of an on-stage outfit change during “Midnight Rain.” Surrounded by umbrellas about halfway through the song, she goes in in a shift dress, and reappears in a deep blue beaded bodysuit and garter, which remains her outfit for the duration of the era.
During tracks like “Vigilante Shit,” she reminds us that she is a sexy, fierce femme fatale, while she does a more rigid, fast-paced variation of a burlesque chair routine, dancers flanking her as they do the same. By moving directly from this routine into “Bejeweled,” where she is spinning and dancing and wiggling her little spirit-fingers, she shows that there is not a dichotomy between “sexy” and “cutesy” – she can be, and is, both, and it is fantastic. She plays through “Mastermind,” letting everyone in the audience that she is a mastermind (this entire night has been a reminder), and then closes out with the most vibrant, colorful, party-on-stage performance of “Karma.”
Swift knows how to do a send-off, and always does a glorious one on her tours. Be it “Shake It Off” on the 1989 World Tour, “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” on the Reputation Tour, or “Karma,” on her current tour, she makes sure the finale is colorful, adventurous, loud, and fun. On the Eras Tour, it is complete with every dancer in a different vibrant colored bodysuit and tinsel jacket, and plenty of skipping, dancing, and waving, pyrotechnics, smoke, and confetti. Once she thanks every dancer and band member, every backup vocalist, she makes her round of goodbyes, exits the stage, and allows plenty of time for production credits to play onstage. Very few artists go out of their way to recognize those supporting them in the background, but it is no surprise that Swift does. Each performer gets a credit with their photo, title, and full name, and then everyone involved in pre-production and live production of the tour is thanked by name, as well.
To witness Swift’s creativity, the past decade and a half’s worth of ideas and inspiration and experiences being rolled into one monumental performance, is breathtaking. Forty-four songs long, over three hours of showtime with no real intermission, and a blend of everything from musical theater to interpretive dance to spoken word, she has got it all. The Eras Tour is worth every single penny and then some. Taylor Swift is single-handedly one of the most versatile artists to ever live, and any chance to witness her in her element is worth taking.