When I got the email from Premium PR that I had been approved for a press pass to opening weekend of Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour,” I wasn’t “ready for it.” I wasn’t ready for the sheer size of State Farm Stadium, I wasn’t ready for the echo of the crowd as they sang along to every song, and I definitely wasn’t ready for the length of the show. There were lots of moving pieces that came together on Saturday, March 18, 2023, to celebrate Taylor Swift’s return to the big stage – and, just as I thought it would, my expectations were entirely blown out of the water.
I drove up to Glendale (aptly renamed “Swift City” for the weekend of the tour) on Saturday afternoon, and the traffic was every bit as dense as I was warned; on a regular day, I would have been driving about 40 minutes from where I was staying to get to the stadium, but on the day of the concert, I was in the car for closer to an hour and a half. I have to give it to State Farm, though – they were moving people as efficiently through the line as they could.
The only thing notable from the hours leading up to the start of the concert was the length of the merch line and the size of the crowd. I can’t say I was surprised – it’s Taylor-freaking-Swift, after all! – but imagine taking seventy thousand people and putting them in the same place, all at once. It was crazy. My dad, the biggest Swifty I know, and I ended up standing in line for merch for just over an hour before heading into the Stadium and taking our seats for the start of the show.
We had a perfect view of the stage from our seats (thanks, Premium PR!). We were sitting on the first level, just above the floor, at the end of a row, halfway up. We were right in line with the very end of the “runway” of the giant stage, and while our view of the foot of the stage was mildly obstructed by one of the giant speaker towers positioned throughout the floor, there was no way we could complain. It was perfect.
The night started very suddenly; without any notice other than the lights beginning to dim, GAYLE hit the stage and immediately established herself as an artist with more to say than the one song we’ve all heard, “abcdefu.” She played through a set of eight songs (one of them was new), and I’ll admit, I was very surprised. Pleasantly, of course – We’ve had a few artists lately that release one, killer song that ends up being overplayed and we never hear from them again, but I am confident that GAYLE will not be one of them. Her sound is far more established, heavy, and mature than what I expected, and I was impressed to see her switching between playing guitar and bass during her set! Her vocals were clean and strong; while performing her to-be-released song titled “don’t call me pretty,” she sang this incredible, chromatic vocal crawl, after which I was sold. GAYLE, despite being known from a song that blew up on TikTok, has a powerful voice and amazing vocal control. She’s a rising star, and one to watch for sure!
After a brief break, Paramore hit the stage as the second opener of the night. Hayley Williams was rocking yet another fantastic outfit – she had giant, pink eyelashes, a neon yellow top, sparkly silver shorts, and a phenomenal pair of silver, sparkly boots that matched her shorts. Williams brought a breath of life to the stage; saying that she has exceptional stage presence would be a huge understatement. The rest of the band, too, didn’t disappoint: all of the stage members took advantage of the massive stage they had in front of them, and danced with each other like this night was just as exciting for them as it was for all of the fans. Paramore played a set of nine of their best songs, ranging from the title piece of their newest album (This Is Why), a song from one of their oldest albums (That’s What You Get), love songs celebrating both Taylor Swift and Paramore itself (The Only Exception, Still Into You), and, as Williams put it, the song that they had vowed to never perform again “if TikTok didn’t bring that shit back from the dead!” (Misery Business). The entire crowd gave Paramore the love they deserved – and after they hinted at more new music to come, saying “we need to get back to the studio,”-Paramore left the audience overflowing with that vibrant energy, love, and excitement for the rest of the night.
A slightly longer intermission followed the closing of the two opening acts, preparing the audience for the monster of a performance to come; fans knew, by this point, that her setlist was to be a whopping 44 songs, boasting a running time of well over three hours. Now, I may not be quite as dedicated a Swiftie as some of my friends, but when the stadium started to darken once more, and a clock appeared on the giant screen above the stage to count down the time before the Taylor Swift took the stage, even I was out of my seat, screaming and cheering with everyone else.
When the clock “struck midnight” and the stadium was veiled in darkness, I was shocked as the floor of the stage began to glow with beautiful, mixing colors. Dancers in peacock-like costumes of sunrise hues appeared from a door in the stage’s giant screen, walking gracefully towards the center of the runway. They danced gracefully to come together, covering what we would later realize is a rising platform in the stage, before revealing Taylor Swift, who magically appeared in the center of them all – the show was off to a beautiful start, plunging the audience straight into the Lover Era. Swift performed six songs from Lover, and greeted the audience of Phoenix as she went along. She promised to take everyone on a journey, and to “catch up” on everything we (as her fans) had missed. It has, in fact, been a long time since Swift last performed live – she last toured in 2018 to celebrate the release of Reputation, and has since released four new albums, Lover, Folklore, Evermore, and Midnights, and re-recorded two, Red and Fearless. That’s four albums-worth of new songs to catch up with – she wasn’t kidding!
After finishing the Lover Era with “The Archer,” Swift headed into a short performance of three songs from the Fearless Era. When she started playing “Love Story,” my dad tapped my shoulder and indicated that I should take one of my earplugs out of my ears to listen. I was confused, but I did, and I was in awe as I listened to the thundering echo as the audience sang along. The energy in the room sent shivers down my spine; we all know that Taylor Swift has been a trendsetter for the sound of pop music over the past 10 or 15 years, but I don’t think I really understood how much of an impact she’s had on people until that point.
The Evermore Era started as Swift moved back to the foot of the stage to take her place at a beautiful piano, seemingly covered in roots; the stage decoration showed a beautiful tree behind her, which made the illusion of Taylor Swift sitting under the roots of a tree to sing some of her most emotional songs. Throughout each of these songs – from “evermore” and beyond – I appreciated how Swift continuously incorporated music, dance, and screen-made illusions into her performance. From here, there was a set of two more eras, both shorter than I would have expected: four songs were performed from the Reputation Era, but only one song was performed from the Speak Now Era.
At this point, we were only 19 songs into the show – we still had 25 songs and 4 more eras to get through! I will admit, I am an adamant concert-goer, and this show felt long to me, too. What made it continuously interesting for me, though, was the amazing stage. Through every era, the stage had shifting colors, illusions, videos, and pictures, and it moved! Not only were there several points where both Swift and the dancers could enter and exit the stage, but right in the center of the runway, there was a series of platforms that raised to several different levels throughout the concert. It was amazing! That was absolutely one of the things that, even when I had to sit down and watch the performance from one of the stadium’s screens, kept me enthralled.
We progressed through the Red Era, which ended with a phenomenal performance of Swift’s 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” before heading into one of her newest eras: The Folklore Era. Once again, here, I was amazed by the set: an entire cabin-like structure was brought onto the stage, and Swift climbed to the very top to introduce us to “folklore.” I learned here that this album was Swift’s moment of experimentation and imagination during the pandemic; many of the songs in this era were written about characters, not about Swift herself – and I think this made for not only an interesting (and different!) style, but for a performance that really did read like the telling of a folklore.
With two more eras to go, we finally got to the one with which I have the most nostalgia: the 1989 Era. Fun fact! This wasn’t the first Taylor Swift concert I’d been to. Back in 2015, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend her 1989 World Tour, celebrating the release of that very album. It was really something special to see five of the songs that I know the best performed, once again, right in front of me.
1989 had a lead-out of one of Swift’s most iconic songs – “Bad Blood” – and she wooed fans as she walked up to the very front of the walkway to get up close and personal.. and to perform her two, surprise acoustic songs for the night. For those of you that don’t know, out of all 44 songs that Swift will be performing at each stop on The Eras Tour, there are two songs that will change every night. For her second night in Arizona (“Era-zona,” Swift joked), we heard both “this is me trying” (played acoustic on guitar) and “State of Grace” (played acoustic on piano).
Finally, the night wrapped up with the last era of the night: the Midnights Era. This era tied with the folklore era for the most number of songs performed; out of the 20 songs from her newest album, Swift played seven of the most popular. I was actually particularly surprised by the placement of this era; on one hand, “Midnights” is Swift’s newest release, and it could prove to be a good reason for the audience to stay all the way to the end. On the other hand, however, “Midnights” is Swift’s newest release – my dad and I almost expected her to lead with that. However, odd placement or not, I loved hearing each of these songs performed live, all the way up to “Karma,” as song 44.
Ultimately, from two amazing openers to the powerhouse of Swift’s set, I thought that The Eras Tour was one of the most moving concerts I have ever attended. I appreciated the emotion that came through in every song, and I really felt the love that the audience shared for each other and for the music they were so passionately singing along to. The Eras Tour really is a new start for Taylor Swift, and I’m excited to see what all is in store for her as she celebrates her past, her present, and her future.