Last night my best friend and I went to Taylor Swift’s first Philadelphia concert of the 1989 Tour. And it was everything I could have hoped it would be.
After getting a shirt at the merch stand and some Rita’s water ice to get me through the excruciatingly hot day, the tour kicked off with an opening act by sixteen-year-old Canadian pop singer Shawn Mendes. I was pleasantly surprised by his charisma and vocal talent; he’s got a boy-next-door kind of vibe, and he can really work a guitar. I could sense some definite Ed Sheeran influences in his songs, and he did a pretty soulful job on Alicia Keys’ 2009 hit, “Fallin’.”
A little while after Shawn Mendes finished his set, the second opener, Australian-born Vance Joy came onstage. Many people know him for his single “Riptide,”; I actually liked the song so much that I got his whole album on iTunes and loved it. He bobbed his curly-haired head to songs like “Mess Is Mine,” “From Afar,” and “Georgia” and also added a heartfelt cover of Sam Smith’s Grammy-winning song, “Stay With Me.” Altogether, Taylor Swift’s openers gave impressive performances and got the crowd settled in their seats with their singer-songwriter tunes.
But once Vance Joy had left the stage and the lights went down, the real party began.
The crowd went positively wild when Taylor Swift appeared onstage singing “Welcome to New York.” I got chills that lasted probably a half hour. And I enjoyed every moment that followed.
The setlist was perfectly constructed (though I was sad that she didn’t include “Wonderland”), with powerhouse pop anthems like “New Romantics,” “I Wish You Would,” and “All You Had to Do Was Stay” toward the beginning to really get the ball rolling. Toward the middle, she made her way down the catwalk (that rotated across the crowd!) to the B Stage for some slower songs like “You Are In Love,” “Clean,” and “This Love” to give the audience a rest.
She mixed the endearingly sweet (“How You Get the Girl”) with the mysteriously dark (“I Know Places”) with ease and triumphed in her performances of old songs and new. Among her revamped songs were a Lana Del Rey-esque version of “I Knew You Were Trouble,” a synth-y version of her classic hit, “Love Story,” and a hard-rock version of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” She also added touches of “Enchanted,” one of my favorite songs on her album Speak Now, into her stunning song “Wildest Dreams,” off of 1989. I always find it impressive when artists can find creative ways to make their old songs new again, which is exactly what Taylor did.
In the quieter moments, Taylor talked to the audience on a more touching level than the rousing speeches she gave earlier on. She called all of us her “friends” and thanked us for our constant support despite the media’s harsh criticism. Like an older sister, she told us to accept our mistakes, to embrace our beauty, and to hold onto our friendships.
In between songs, the screens displayed video footage of her gal pals, Lena Dunham, Selena Gomez, and the members of the band Haim, along with many others, talking candidly about their friendships with Taylor and why female support is so important in a world where women are constantly pitted against each other. (Her cats, Meredith and Olivia, also made an appearance in one of the videos.)
Speaking of Taylor’s friends, the Philly (Night #1) crowd was lucky enough to have not one, but three special guests! First was the band Echosmith, recently made popular by their song “Cool Kids,” which they performed with Taylor. I almost cried when they came out simply because of the intense feeling that we, the audience, were special; we were special because we got to experience this moment that would never happen again.
Later during “Style,” Taylor brought out two of the members of her girl-squad, model and actress (in the upcoming Paper Towns movie!!) Cara Delevingne, and Law and Order: SVU actress Mariska Hargitay. They strutted down the runway and danced with Taylor as she sang about a complicated love that “never goes out of style.” In a word, it was EPIC.
Taylor Swift rounded off the concert with some more popular hits, including the ever-empowering “Bad Blood,” the perfectly layered “Out of the Woods,” and of course, the fabulously dance-y “Shake It Off.” Taylor didn’t even need the fireworks that concluded the concert; the night was sparkling without them.
This concert was the perfect exhibition of Taylor Swift’s inimitable talent. She showed off her voice by belting in the upbeat songs and pulling back in the subtler ones. She danced like 50,000 people weren’t watching, and in almost every song wore a different bedazzled (or lit up!) outfit. (My personal favorite was the sparkly jacket and shiny purple skirt from the opening number. Fab.) In her in-between monologues she showed a certain 25-year-old maturity that comes with acknowledging one’s own naivete.
She told us that she likes writing songs about things she finds “romantic,” but her songs reached much deeper than that on 1989. Lyrics like, “You keep his shirt / He keeps his word” (“You Are In Love”) and “We show off our different scarlet letters / Trust me, mine is better” (“New Romantics”) show that she’s grown to be more than just the princess in a fairy tale. She’s the master of her craft, a Queen of Pop, an advocate of independence and originality.
During “You Are In Love,” we all echoed the word “silence” as she sang it in each refrain. And as I sang it back to Taylor, I thought of the paradox of a stadium full of people singing the word “silence.” Because nothing about that moment was silent. Taylor was using her voice to help us use ours. To show us that underneath all our differences, “everybody here wanted something more.”