As her closing song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” hit its climax, at the sold-out Tacoma Dome Saturday night, Taylor Swift stood smiling at 20,000 fans, drinking in their adoration.
The imagery was perfect. Swift, dressed as a circus ringleader, had expertly presided over the nearly two-hour marathon of fireworks, dance routines and even a flight over the crowd on a floating platform. The fans, many of them teens accompanied by parents, seemed to swim in a sea of light-up signs and glow sticks as their cheers reached a thunderous crescendo while Swift disappeared into the stage floor to end the show.
Swift, who has earned appeal across a broad swath of the mainstream after starting out as a country star, is using the “Red Tour” to redefine her image as a once-in-a-generation pop megastar. The dancing, inspirational big-sister onstage banter and yes, even the singing, was handled with a veteran deftness.
Don’t be mistaken, Swift was having fun up there, but there was killer instinct in her eyes that was hard to miss. As she reminded the crowd more than once, playing in front of adoring fans is a lifelong dream. But it’s also hard work and Swift has turned into quite the pro.
She touched on early every song from her quadruple-platinum album, “Red,” including the show opener “State of Grace,” the title track and her foray into the world of dubstep, the monster hit “I Knew You Were Trouble.” She also brought opener Ed Sheeran out for “Everything Has Changed,” which he co-wrote. Swift played some older songs, too, including “Love Story” and a soul version of “You Belong With Me,” both from her 2008 album “Fearless.” They sounded good but seemed at odds with the dance-pop stylings of “Red.”
Most songs featured a costume change and an impressive stage set, which wasn’t too surprising. Far more so was Swift’s excellent vocal command. For a star known for writing all of her own material but not her singing chops, the fact she had little trouble replicating those hits live was a welcome treat.
Swift says she writes about what she knows, which is why all of her albums thus far have been about love. Her next one might well be about what it’s like to take over the world.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails