Thousands of red-lipped fans entered the stadium. Hundreds lined up at the box office, hoping to be in the audience. Inside the Staples Center, a banner that read “Taylor Swift most sold out performances” hung beside the Los Angeles Lakers’ championship banners.
Welcome to Los Angeles, Taylor Swift. It’s been waiting for you.
The country singer-turned-pop superstar performed a shimmering show at the Staples Center Monday night. It was the third of a five-night tour in the City of Angels – a celebration of Swift’s “1989″ and an exhilarating performance showcasing her versatility as a music artist.
She was like a chameleon: she traded in her cowboy boots for high heels, her dresses for crop tops. Her backdrops of castles were replaced with a Forever 21-like, modern-but-vintage stage. Armed with only a microphone, she was without an instrument most of the night.
It was clear – she wasn’t in Tennessee anymore. She was in New York and now Los Angeles. But her artistic shift was seamless; she was clearly comfortable on stage as a full-fledged pop star. It was a natural evolution spanning her 10-year career and a refreshing sight to see a star grow in her ever-changing skin.
The show was a spectacle of elaborate choreography and production, from dancers suspended from street lamps in “How You Get the Girl” to Swift performing “Shake it Off” on a moving narrow platform that carried her around the circumference of the stadium. The audience’s involvement added to the production, as fans wore bracelets that flashed different colors of light in tune with her songs.
But in this realm of “1989,” I was left wondering: Where did the country star go?
She returned that night, though only in glimpses. Halfway through the show, she picked up her seemingly forgotten acoustic guitar. The thumping bass and synths halted. All that was audible was the guitar, Swift and her sea of fans singing her classic country-pop ballad “Fifteen” from her 2008 album, “Fearless.”
Traveling deeper into her roots, Swift performed a surprise duet with Dixie Chicks frontwoman Natalie Maines, singing “Goodbye Earl” – a country song that Swift said was her go-to talent show song in her younger days. But in an instant, the country star crossed state lines back to New York City, the setting that inspired “1989,” with a quick change in sound and costume.
Swift kept the performance exhilarating as she introduced additional surprise guests. During “Style,” Swift welcomed comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who sported a glimmering tutu over a silver jumpsuit, on stage.
Perhaps the most thought-provoking moment was her duet of “You Oughta Know” with guest singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette. As Swift sang the words, “You seem very well, things look peaceful/ I’m not quite as well, I thought you should know/ Did you forget about me, Mr. Duplicity?,” she left fans wondering whether fierce lyrics were next in her music evolution.
Even with her guests and intricate production, Swift was the star of the show. The concert celebrated the “1989″ album, but it was also a night to celebrate the singer.
Models Cara Delevingne, Lily Aldridge and Karlie Kloss, musicians Selena Gomez and HAIM, filmmaker Lena Dunham and actress Jamie King shared personal anecdotes about Swift in interview-style video clips between songs. They were sweet, but sounded a hair scripted at times. Nevertheless, truth lay in her friends’ accounts of Swift’s genuine and quirky personality.
Along with her friends and fans, Swift humbly celebrated herself with her song “Clean” toward the end of the show.
“Rain came pouring down when I was drowning/ That’s when I could finally breathe,” Swift sang, after sharing her victory over her life’s dark moments and motivating her fans.
Swift has had her fair share of criticism rooted in her Spotify controversy, her Twitter feud with Nicki Minaj and allegations of her use of feminism as a marketing strategy. However, there was no denying her prowess on stage and with a pen and paper in hand.
On the stage, as she sang and strutted on a narrow catwalk, Swift was in her element.
– Gail Acosta