I’m pretty out of the loop when it comes to pop culture. The answer to “Do you know _____” or “Have you heard/seen ____” is “Um. No…” 90% of the time. But someone who I DO know (this is rare, so it’s a minor source of pride) is Taylor Swift, and I saw her live in concert in Philadelphia on her 1989 World Tour!
I’ve been to three concerts before in the past, Death Cab for Cutie, Jason Derulo, and David Guetta. But Taylor Swift was different because (1) I had heard her songs more than one week prior to the concert, and (2) I actually knew the words to said songs (again, probably not something that the average person would be proud of, but you underestimate the extent of my mainstream ignorance). I nabbed a ticket as soon as presales came out in December, so it’s been an anticipated event on my calendar for quite a while. To see the concert, I even made a special weekend trip down to Philly, because for whatever reason, NYC was not included on her tour. (I’m sure there’s a business rationale for this, but she’s the AMBASSADOR for NYC. Just saying.)
Being the concert n00b that I am, I arrived at the venue, Lincoln Financial Field, 15min before the start time of 7pm. It turns out that it takes quite a while for 50,000 people to pile into a stadium, and the event coordinators fully adjust the schedule to accommodate this. I found my seat in the second-to-last row (yes, I bought the cheapest ticket I could fined, and somehow it was still close to $100), and then there was nothing to do but to wait.
The camera makes it look much further away than it actually was, I swear.
I got so restless that I wandered around the concession stands and finally bought a cheeseburger and a $4 water, which the event coordinators probably fully accommodated for as well.
I also amused myself by noting the demographics of the crowd, which was probably unlike any other that Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, has ever seen. It was around 90% female, 70% young (which I operationally define as being born before 1989), and so, so overwhelmingly white. From my seat in the second-to-last row (and when you’re up that high, you can see a lot. Just not of the stage), I could only find four other people of color — two of which being my companions next to me. I was surprised because I thought she had a fan base that was at least twice as diverse (which still isn’t saying much…). But while everyone has danced to her music at some point, I guess mostly one particular demographic is willing to pony up $100++ to squint at her in a stadium.
Shawn Mendes kicked off the show at 7:15, followed by Vance Joy at 8:00. At 8:30, they amped up the crowd with videos prepared just for the 1989 World Tour, including trivia, behind the scenes for music videos, and interview snippets, and at 9:00 on the dot, Taylor Swift herself appeared.
Thank goodness for those two gigantic screens.
Her first song of the night, ‘Welcome to New York’ (I know videos are awful, but the goal of the videos was to save the experience rather than to try for the perfect cut).
Upon entering the stadium, everyone was given a white rubbery wristband that visibly contained LEDs but didn’t have buttons or any other means of activation. We were simply instructed to (1) wear the wristband, (2) remove the strip of plastic that separated the battery, and (3) have fun. As soon as Taylor took the stage, we discovered what it was for. The wristbands had no button because they were centrally controlled, timed to flash in rhythm with the current song of the set. Pretty cool!
‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’:
One perk of being up high and far away: you can see the entire twinkling stadium. Because that — and not the performer — is clearly what I paid to see. After leaving the stadium the wristbands are set to flash colorfully when tapped or shaken. I don’t know how I feel about bringing a remote-controlled object back to my home, but who can pass up a cool reusable souvenir?
Taylor herself is an amazing performer, not unexpected given that she has had 10+ years of practice already. That girl knows her best poses and angles, and she has a talent for whipping up the crowd, even one that’s an unwieldy 50,000 people strong. The transition from song to song was seamless, so Taylor was fully present and fully on for two hours straight, when I was already hoarse from singing along by the end of the first hour. Much respect!
A runway that lifted up and rotated over the crowd:
And ‘Love Story,’ redone in 1989 style:
The grand finale, with ‘Shake It Off’
What took me by surprise was Taylor’s eloquence. In the media, she is sometimes portrayed as somewhat spazzy, somewhat awkward, and generally “Omg omg — like, yeah.” But she gave earnest speeches as lead-ins to some of her songs, seeking to connect personally with her audience. She made a point of thanking us in person for supporting her 1989 album, shared some of the sentiments behind her songs, and made a variety of inspirational comments that drew from her own experiences. Aw man, she can sing, play instruments, and make good speeches?
Bring on the feelings of inadequacy. What am I doing with my life? Clearly not giving multiple concerts with tens of thousands of people in attendance. Realistically, I’ll never get to that point (“Not with that attitude!” yeah, yeah). But it is inspirational to see what someone can do at a mere age of 25. Let me set a goal of making “just” 50,000 friends, and I’ll move up form there!
After this concert, I understand the appeal of seeing artists live. It’s even more fun to sing along to your favorite songs when you’re doing it with the artist in the him/herself, even when s/he is an entire football field away. Maybe I should get more into music and other artists…nah. Taylor Swift is enough pop culture for me for now. One step at a time!