GLENDALE, Ariz. – When Taylor Swift says she wants to bring the eras of her career to the stage, believe her.
Not since Bruce Springsteen’s most energetic days and his legendary live concerts has a mainstream artist packed so much music into one show. Friday night at State Farm Stadium near Phoenix, Swift kicked off The Eras Tour with a staggering 44 songs presented over a span of three hours and 15 minutes.
But more than just a roll call of her ubiquitous smash singles and fan-beloved album cuts, Swift’s show is as ambitious as a Broadway musical. Numerous moving sets, teams of dancers and backup singers, a fast-changing costume parade, confetti, pyro, synchronized flashing wristbands and a beautiful curved video screen to cover her ever-smiling face to those in the furthest rafters complemented her songs, while her multifaceted band sat discreetly on a corner of the stage.
True to its title, The Eras Tour actually covered every facet of Swift’s career, from a low-key rendition of her 2006 debut single, “Tim McGraw,” to the closing “Karma” from her current “Midnights” album. (Only her 2010 “Speak Now” album received a single representation, the delightful “Enchanted.”)
Swift commented early in the concert that she knew her fans – about 70,000 of them tonight – made a “significant effort” to attend the show, and through her singing, dancing, storytelling, sweating and strutting both on the main stage and long catwalk, she rewarded them mightily.
The Eras Tour spans the country for 51 more dates through August, including a second leg in Glendale on Saturday. As spunky as Swift is at 33, this is a grueling show that will require tremendous endurance for the next five months.
But if any artist can achieve the level of perfection she demands of herself, it’s Swift.
Here are some highlights from Swift’s career overview.
The ‘Love’ era
As Lesley Gore’s 1963 statement song “You Don’t Own Me” blasted through the stadium, a clock ticked down to tell the time—as if these Swifty disciples needed their anticipation amped up.
“Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” served as the opening salvo as Swift, towering in silver sequined boots and a leotard that invoked the pastel motif of her “Lover” album, rose from beneath the catwalk on a massive platform that would be a frequent set piece during the entire show.
Since Swift never toured behind her 2019 album due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this marked the live debut of “Cruel Summer” and also allowed for a cheeky rendition of “The Man,” with Swift wearing an oversized sparkly jacket to frolic on a sleek office set and a cool remix of “You Need to Calm Down”.
Her joy at returning to the stage for the first time since 2018 was palpable. Swift absorbed the admiration for a few moments.
“I don’t know how to address the way it makes me feel right now,” she said, visibly moved.
The ‘Fearless’ era
Jumping out in a short gold dress and carrying a matching guitar, Swift spun through a trio of songs from her 2008 release.
A quartet of band members accompanied her in formation as she roamed the catwalk during “You Belong With Me.” She finished the song with her arms wrapped around her four backing singers before rolling into a lively “Love Story.”
The ‘Evermore’ era
A backdrop of trees and a dark theatrical theme introduced “‘Tis the Damn Season,” another live debut.
In a rust-colored floral dress and forest green cape, Swift sank into a cloud of dry ice for the ethereal “Willow” before edging down the catwalk and twirling as if possessed by the spirit of Stevie Nicks.
But the highlight of the second of the pair of folk-inflected albums Swift released during the pandemic came with “Champagne Problems,” which she performed sitting at a moss-covered piano. As the emotion of the song escalated, the fervent crowd shouted along with every word, sharing in her joyous venom.
The ‘Reputation’ era
From the first glimpse of a snake on the video screens, it was clear that Swift would next delve into her polarizing 2017 release, and she came equipped with the perfect outfit – a fierce one-legged black and red bodysuit.
These songs have always been embedded with attitude, and Swift and her crew expertly snarled and threw out sultry looks as they stomped through “Ready For It?” Beams of light surrounded Swift as she roared under the pop-metal crunch of anything but “Delicate” and a cool display of outfits from throughout her career — worn by her dancers — paired with the electro-goth prom, “Look What You Made Me do it.”
The ‘red’ era
The stage was appropriately framed in a crimson hue as Swift meandered through the carefree vibe of “22” and threw some mischievous stares down to the thundering pulse of “Trouble.”
But it was the long version of “All Too Well,” which Swift said she performed as a thank you to fans, that captivated as the audience heartily touched the words of the labyrinthine story song.
The ‘Folklore’ Era
Picking seven songs from her Grammy-winning 2020 release, Swift layered her selections, including “Invisible String” and “My Tears Ricochet,” with sheer simplicity to match her elegant flowing purple dress.
While her voice easily swung from gentle to robust throughout the show, Swift’s vocals on the poignant “Betty” with its singsong chorus soared as one of her best of the night.
The ‘1989’ era
Perhaps her most consistently upbeat album, the one named after Swift’s year of birth contains countless gems.
The gliding “Style” and the unmitigated “Blank Space” with its epic chorus unfolded with a wink and a snap as dancers with Day Glo golf clubs took their best swings at a car (on video).
Hearing the giddy “Shake it Off” after the thoughtful characterizations of “Folklore” served as sundae after the meal.
‘The Midnight Hour’
Swift followed an acoustic segment — which she said she hopes to change every show — with a water-themed segue that launched with the woozy vibes of “Lavender Haze” (and yes, she wore a lavender ensemble) .
Her latest smash, “Anti-Hero,” positioned herself as another addition to her canon that will be heard on tours for years to come, while Swift and her dancers paid homage to Bob Fosse’s “Chicago” with a sleek chair routine to accompany ” Vigilante S—.”
At the end of the show, as confetti rained onto the stage, Swift took her curtain call with her entire performance team before taking a victory lap, solo, to express her gratitude to her devotees once more.
Gayle opened the night at 6:30 sharp, delivering a tight set of melodic rockers, including the Grammy-nominated “abcdefu” and a solid cover of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.”
Paramore’s pop-punk-rock stylings followed just before 7 p.m. 7 p.m., with frontwoman Hayley Williams, sporting red ankle boots and constantly swiveling hips, bouncing around the stage and catwalk during their nine-song, 40-minute set.
Singalongs abounded during “That’s What You Get,” “Misery Business” and closer, “Ain’t It Fun,” while the band also broke out with the swaying ballad — not a favorite of Williams’, she admitted — “The Only Exception.” “