There are concerts and then there are concert experiences. You can appreciate a concert, but the type of concert experience like the one produced by Taylor Swift on her Eras Tour goes beyond just the sheer listening value of the event. On the third night of her sold-out run at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field — a sunny Mother’s Day — Taylor Swift and company created something magical in the way only she can.
During the Eras Tour, Swift and her band have been putting on a spectacle complete with enormous sets, costumes, fireworks, confetti, and an enormous setlist that covers 10 albums. These shows stretch for four hours straight (and one time, five). So, that third night must be a daunting one, right? “The third night is where we go into Beast Mode,” Swift told the 70,000 fans watching her onstage and the thousands more listening in their cars in neighboring parking lots. And it truly was a tireless performance.
Having not seen Taylor Swift perform before, I brought with me the most knowledgeable fan I know, my 10-year-old daughter. At Lincoln Financial Field on May 14, everyone — or nearly everyone — was dressed in sequin or shades of pink or purple. There were halos, crowns, and angel wings everywhere I turned. And these all corresponded to characters or sentiments in Swift’s songs. These stories-put-to-verse have taken on a life of their own in her fandom, so having someone to help navigate through that world made the experience all the better.
As we filtered into the stadium, hours before it was set to start, I gazed at the huge screens sandwiching the stage that played behind-the-scenes glimpses of Taylor Swift directing several of her own music videos for recent songs, like “The Man” from Lover and “Anti-Hero” from her most recent release Midnights. I marveled at the sheer size of the production while the sun was still out. It’s one thing to be in the moment and experiencing an event, but to be able to see how really big it is before things kick into gear gives one a real appreciation for what goes into each concert experience.
For each stop in her tour, Taylor Swift has had some phenomenal opening acts. Gracie Abrams put on a moving and all too short set while Phoebe Bridgers’ walk-on music of Disturbed’s “Down With the Sickness” had everyone screaming. Bridgers’ set was a great taste of shows I’ve seen of hers, and I could see most of those in the growing crowd were huge fans. More than once I caught a glimpse of a person wearing the trademark skeleton onesie that Bridgers and her bandmates — who, it must be noted, included Matty Healy from The 1975 on guitar — wear on-stage.
Then it was time for Taylor Swift’s performance, and I am not exaggerating when I say the sound of the cheers was deafening. After a clock appeared that counted down the start of the show, a parade of dancers came through the stage with flowing pink and purple wings to the opening sounds of “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince.” Swift then appeared via a riser on the stage. I looked over to my daughter as she screamed along with tears in her eyes. She was witnessing one of her favorite songs on her favorite album being sung by an artist she has been talking about since she was five. At that moment I knew this was more than just a concert. This was a memory she and I would share forever.
Watch the official music video for “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” by Taylor Swift on YouTube:
Since the last time Taylor Swift toured in 2018, there have been quite a few albums that she has recorded and released. That is not including several re-recorded Taylor’s Versions. Many of these songs prior to the Eras Tour had not been performed live before the start of the tour. And all of those albums were represented in sections with Lover being the first.
“Every single one of you here tonight you’re all making me feel like I’m the first artist ever to play this stadium three nights in a row!,” Swift told the crowd. “I guess what I’m trying to say is… you’re making me feel like I’m the man,” she added before starting on one of her most popular songs on Lover, “The Man.” As the song started, Swift appeared up on a tall scaffolding, donned a sequined gray suit, and danced with a row of other performers.
As the show moved from Lover to her album Fearless, Taylor Swift made her way up the stage to sing with her guitar for some of her older country / Americana tinged songs like “Fearless” and “Love Story.” The way each “era” changed tone and mood appeared seamless. Even when it went from her earliest songs to her work on the album evermore and, later, its companion folklore, the accompanying changes to the entire stage made it feel at once like a different show but also part of the same whole experience.
There were plenty of surprises, but there was one surprise Taylor didn’t anticipate. On this day, Mother’s Day, the whole stadium surprised Taylor as they all turned on the flashlights on their phones during her song “marjorie.” “It’s a song I wrote about my grandmother. My mom’s mom,” Swift told the crowd. “And you all telepathically decided to turn on your flashlights on your phones at the same time on Mother’s Day. It was so beautiful!” It was made even more special as Taylor Swift grew up near Philadelphia and has called these stops her hometown shows.
The biggest set changes were going into her reputation era and the huge dance numbers like “…Ready for it?” and then into the elaborate woodsy design of folklore. But through it all was the interactive nature of the event. Before heading into the stadium, each person was given a wristband that lights up to songs in the set. And when those beats went off it was like seeing a sea of sparkles. Everyone in this packed stadium was part of the show. You weren’t just someone in the audience, you became part of the performance.
Sometimes it’s hard to picture how a particular song or even an album would translate to the live stage. Prior to walking into Lincoln Financial Field I couldn’t imagine how songs like “betty” or “cardigan” would be put together. But those questions were soon answered as in a matter of minutes the stage was transformed from the red sparkling sequin of Red to a moss covered cabin where Swift maneuvered from one part of the set to the next. The stories being told came to life on the stage.
Speaking of the Red era, Swift stopped for a moment to tell the audience, “This album was one that I got to record and release twice. The reason for that being is that I decided to re-record my first six albums. And honestly ever since I was a teenager it’s been important for me to own my work, to own my art… A passion project is something that as an artist you do because you care about it but you can’t expect other people to care about it.” She was then joined by Phoebe Bridgers for “Nothing New” from the Taylor’s Version of Red. My favorite moment, though, was near the end of the Red era set during “All Too Well” when my daughter and I looked up as tiny gusts of confetti swirled around. For an instant I thought it was actually snowing — lost in the moment — while my brain tried to process what was going on.
After an amazing set through 1989 that included hits like “Shake It Off” and “Bad Blood,” Taylor Swift walked up to the end of the walkway to take her acoustic guitar where she told the crowd, “Sometimes I have people close to me that make requests and I actually had a few really nice fun people ask me to do this one, so I’m hoping it might go well.” This was the part of the set where she picks a couple of songs that may never have been played live before or which haven’t been performed in years. These are just Taylor and her guitar or piano. She started off by performing “Hey, Stephen” and ended with “The Best Day” on piano before diving into a pool as we all watched her via screen swim back to the main stage.
Watch the official music video for “The Best Day (Taylor’s Version)” by Taylor Swift on YouTube:
Taylor Swift returned to the stage to perform another set of the newest songs from Midnights which ended with an amazing version of “Karma.” The stage exploded with smoke and fireworks and covered the entire stadium in confetti.
I can tell you I have not had a concert experience like the one Sunday night, and to be able to share this with my daughter was even more special than can be expressed. It’s a memory that will certainly last.
The setlist included:
Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince
You Need to Calm Down
You Belong With Me
’tis the damn season
…Ready for It?
Don’t Blame Me
Look What You Made Me Do
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
I Knew You Were Trouble
Nothing New (with Phoebe Bridgers)
All Too Well (10 Minute Version)
the last great american dynasty
my tears ricochet
Shake It Off
The Best Day