I am late as I make my way to Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field to join 52000 other Taylor Swift fans. I rush through a legion of cowboy-booted, denim-shorted, blonde-curled tweens, and there is a high-pitched roar from inside the stadium. The first song kicks in and I’m still wrangling with the ticket guy over a pink entry-bracelet (can you believe they didn’t have enough?). As I enter the temple of Taylor the collective euphoria is palpable, and makes me grin.

The show is pretty great. It’s a series of meticulously staged pop videos, replete with dancers and trapeze artists. Swift is picture-perfect throughout on the big screens that flank the stage, and never once steps out of character. She smiles a lot, mostly with her eyes. She plays a little banjo, some grand piano, and a collection of guitars, the last of these being insanely sparkly. She has a new outfit for almost every song, disappearing behind or under the scenery between numbers to re-emerge powdered and refreshed. Her facial expressions and demeanour are deployed with accuracy – the doe-eyes, the measured gratitude and humility (‘thank you so much, thank you… somuch’): this is (was) her home state, after all. The band, too, remain carefully crafted – ‘punky’ guitarist, ‘folksy’ fiddler (and hidden drummer).

Aspects of the show seem overly contrived, and I find myself laughing at the earnestness with which Swift and co repeatedly strike massive pretend bells in melodramatic ‘Haunted’. In the finale, ‘Love Story’, she is floated out across the venue in a balcony-basket and it’s weird how the crowd goes nuts since it seems rather banal compared to stand-out vocal and ensemble moments such as ‘Dear John’ and ‘Better Than Revenge’, which are played with utter conviction. The highlight is when Swift runs from the stage, hugging and high-five-ing fans, to a raised platform mid-stadium where she sits on a bench under a purple-lit tree, revolving slowly and accompanying herself sensitively on guitar to ‘Last Kiss’, ‘Fifteen’ and ‘Fearless’.

On the drive to my Youngstown motel I listen to one-and-a-half Taylor Swift albums with fresh ears and a renewed sense of joy.

One Response to “Taylor Swift, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, 18th June 2011”

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