Taylor Swift wins the hearts of the Manchester crowd!
I queued to get into the Etihad Stadium with a sense of excitement and anticipation growing all around me. This would be my sixth time seeing American songstress Taylor Swift so you would think I’d know what to expect but as I said to my mum as we travelled there early in the hopes we’d get a glimpse of the star arriving, with Taylor, anything could happen. I even looked over head half expecting her to be winched down from a helicopter or something! And like in previous tours she’s always picked excellent tour supports (unfortunately not myself, wouldn’t that be the dream!) Of course I can only speak from England’s perspective but we’ve had the joys of Justin Bieber (with a broken leg) on the Fearless tour back in 2009, Martin and James on the Speak Now tour in 2011, The Vamps on the Red tour in 2013 and Vance Joy back in 2015 for the 1989 tour. This tour saw two support acts join Taylor, Charli XCX and Camila Cabello both of which have had chart success both in the UK and the US. The crowd thoroughly enjoyed both artists who got everyone fired up ready for Taylor. Charlie XCX sang hits Fancy and Boom Clap whilst Camila sang her hits Havana, Bad Things and Consequences which was written by Country songwriter Nicole Galyon for any of you Country fans out there!
The LED screens began playing clips of Taylor and voices of news reporters talking about her until they accumulated and were all saying Reputation. Taylor emerged to excited screams from the crowd as the screens moved back and she walked forward. Wearing a black sparkly hooded leotard and knee high boots she broke into Are You Ready For It? Her dancers entered via the stairs at the side of the two platforms that stretched out diagonally dissecting the snake pits, again wearing hooded black and red outfits. From this she broke out into I Did Something Bad, her dancers got heavily involved then, lifting her into the air. We saw the first benefit of having it in a Stadium with no roof… Flames! Yes, during the chorus we saw the first of many pyrotechnic displays Taylor had put into her set as six flames shot up into the air high above the stage followed by red fireworks shooting off in time with the drums. It fitted well with the lyrics “I Can Feel The Flames On my Skin.” Towards the end of the song she seemed to extend the bridge part and her and her dancers acted to the lyrics “They’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one.”
Taylor introduced her female dancers and spoke of girl power as she congratulated Charli XCX and Camila Cabello on their sets. Another hit from her latest record ensued, Gorgeous, the LED screens which took 85 people 5 months to produce the contents of not only showed what was happening on stage but showed video clips and perhaps some people’s favourite moment, pictures of Taylor’s cats as she sang about “running home to her cats.” She took it back to 1989 era then for Style. The lights we had all been given to put on our wrists as we entered were in sync with the music and looked spectacular even though the sun still shone on the Etihad. She strutted up and down the two platforms along with her dancers. As she went further into her back catalogue the screens split and out came her band including Paul Sidoti, Amos Heller and Mike Meadows who have been with her right from the start. They came down to play Love Story the first single that entered the top 40 in the UK as it reached number 2 back in 2009. The band remained on stage as she went into You Belong With Me.
Taylor disappeared as the band continued to play and then the screens took over playing clips. A large seesaw type set was rolled onto stage with gold snakes fixed to it. Taylor emerged from the floor of the stage in front of the seesaw where her dancers were, wearing what looked like a sparkly black and gold dressing gown and black and gold boots, her dancers had new outfits on too. She’d even changed her mic to a gold one with a sort of handle in the shape of a snake. As she strutted across the stage followed by her dancers snakes appeared on the screen and they looked as if they were biting at the dancers who reacted. The Seesaw was rocked backwards and forwards sometimes with Taylor stood on top. During the bridge where the screens had parted a large fifty foot snake rose out of the floor of the stage, it’s eyes lit up and it’s tongue hung from it’s mouth as it moved from side to side. End Game followed and at some point Taylor shed her jacket which looked like a dressing gown and she was in a matching leotard. For King of My Heart Taylor was rocked backwards and forwards on the Gold snake seesaw by her male dancers. They rolled out six big drums which her male dancers played.
Taylor once again left the stage and returned wearing a gorgeous multi-coloured dress to give a speech about love and how sometimes it’s delicate… that was the audiences queue to whoop in delight that the song was included in the set her dancers no longer on the stage were spotted in colourful costumes heading towards the smaller stages at the back of the stadium as Taylor got on a gold illuminated carriage. She was lifted into the air above the crowd and it slowly made it’s way on a zip wire to the B stage to her right. As the carriage landed I noticed two big holes in the floor of the stage. She addressed the crowd at the back and in the top tiers who were now a lot closer. As she began to sing shake it off a snake emerged from one of the holes and it’s tale stretched out from the other, this happened on both of the smaller stages. Taylor invited Charli XCX and Camila Cabello to join her on the smash hit from her last album 1989. Fireworks once again erupted, this time from the two smaller stages as well as from behind the main stage. Her dancers surrounded her towards the end of the song and pulled the dress off her to reveal a black leopard print type leotard and they brought glittery jacket with flowers and Reputation written on it for her to slip on as confetti rained down.
We saw a glimpse of the old Taylor, back on the Fearless tour, Taylor performed almost every song with a guitar in her hand. At this point they handed her a green acoustic and she assured the fans that if they didn’t know the song she was about to sing there were some easy parts to join in with. Of course that wasn’t needed as she began to play I Knew You Were Trouble which the crowd loved and sang at the top of their voices. At this point she addressed the Manchester crowd specifically, taking the time out of her set to praise Manchester’s resilience after what happened on the 22nd May last year. She said “Concerts are supposed to be about innocence, and about joy and about excitement, and what happened just over a year ago in this city was an attempt to steal that innocence. Ever since then, you have shown such strength, you've shown that you're never going to let anyone forget about those victims. You have such incredible resilience - to keep dancing, and to keep the innocence and to keep the joy. I just wanted to say, Manchester, it is such an honour to play for you tonight.” She then began to sing Dancing With Our Hands Tied.
She then walked through the crowd shaking hands with those who tried to reach for her and crossed over to the other B stage. When she arrived she introduced her song Blank Space and once again this appeared to be a fan favourite as they whooped and sang along loudly. Then she said that for this occasion she thought she’d wear a dress as dancers came and slipped a dress type garment on Taylor and female dancers wearing all white with these large wings filled the main stage and one came on each B stage. At the end of the song she took the dress off and walked over to a snake skeleton which had appeared on stage, this was her carriage to take her back across the crowd and onto the main stage again. This was during the song Bad Blood. The carriage moved much faster on the way back than on the way there and Taylor disappeared amongst where the screens split and her band were positioned as male dancers bungled up and down between different levels of the stage. It got me thinking, did these dancers know what they were getting into when they signed up for a Taylor Swift tour as they do so much more than just dance! It was also at this point that I realised how vocally flawless Swift had been all night! Merged in with Bad Blood was a much earlier song and one of my favourites Should’ve Said No. Some fans didn’t know the song and looked around in confusion but many sang loudly like me as the lights everyone had, reached a pinnacle moment in their effectiveness as they all flashed in time with the music as it began to go dark.
Swift disappeared again and re-emerged in a beautiful Gold and Black dress. Her dancers had also got changed and were wearing all black, scale effect capes and big head dresses. She sang Don’t Blame Me and once again the six shoots of fire featured heavily in the song. It was impressive how it was all timed perfectly with the music. Then it was time to take it down a notch as she sat at a beautiful brown grand piano that had reputation written on the side in Gold writing. She spoke of her career so far and of how she appreciates her fans. She then went into a beautiful rendition of Long Live which was supposed to merge into New Years Day but as the chords changed to the second song Taylor accidentally carried on singing the words of long live and started laughing at her mistake before apologising and continuing with the song. It demonstrated that even the biggest stars make mistakes and put it this way, no one can accuse her of miming!
Then once again Taylor left the stage and the screen returned to how it was at the beginning of the show. A video played and you could hear Taylor talking, after further research the speech she gives on the video is a poem she wrote herself called Why She Disappeared. When she came back she was wearing a bluish black sparkly hassle dress and sparkly blazer. She was alone on stage as she sang Getaway Car whilst a video played in the background with some of the lyrics flashing up. The scene was set for the next song, a grand house came on the screen behind fancy gates and a fountain appeared on the stage. Her dancers returned mid-song all dressed in smart outfits - waistcoats, blazers, ties. Her female dancers were dressed all in silver and sat with her on the fountain and she broke into a mash up of We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. During these two songs the house on the LED Screen exploded, confetti rained down on the crowd and as the song drew to a close, what felt like a full on firework display erupted. As the song ended and the band continued to play, Taylor walked up and down the two arms that stretched out, waving to fans and thanking them.
As Fireworks careered up into the sky and exploded, painting the Manchester Sky with colour, Taylor stood below in awe, her hair damp from the fountains, she basked in the rapturous applause and cheers that were so very well deserved.