The singer-songwriter effortlessly redefines the type of show US Bank Stadium can house, with a mammoth pop concert that somehow still feels intimate.
This article is set to appear inside Issue 122 of Twin Cities Gay Scene magazine.
August 31, 2018
A giant video wall that can rearrange itself in over 30 ways. Four-story-tall inflatable snakes with glowing eyes. Fire eruptions from the top of the stage, bathing the stadium in heat. Taylor Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour was not your average Friday night at US Bank Stadium. The Minneapolis venue was packed with over 40,000 devoted fans, many dressed up in costume for the occasion.
If The 1989 World Tour found Taylor Swift perfecting her approach to an arena tour, the Reputation Stadium Tour finds Swift revolutionizing the stadium tour on her first try. The music and imagery had a darker vibe this time around, but Swift still kept things personal, despite the large increase in venue size. She took frequent pauses to connect with the crowd, confessing meanings behind tracks and giving speeches that segued into her next song selection. She teased the crowd before “Gorgeous,” asking them for a word that describes something that is more than beautiful. When they shouted the song’s title, she replied with a wink, “That’s the one!”
Her transition into “Delicate” was so smooth, I heard a fan say, “I see what you did there, Taylor.” It’s those clever details that make Taylor Swift concerts feel so natural and effortless. Whereas other pop acts get lost in the excess of their arena tour stages, Swift still commands full attention on a massive stadium stage composed of the aforementioned video wall, two T-shaped runways, and two separate b-stages.
There were fun surprises, like Swift’s cats Meredith and Olivia popping up on the video wall. Or when comedian Tiffany Haddish appeared on the video screen to do “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone now” bit during “Look What You Made Me Do.” That performance was a standout, incorporating a giant see-saw platform that dancers balanced on as it tilted back and forth.
With the grandiose stage and a visually inventive crew of interpretive backup dancers, Swift delivered dramatic, engaging performances of hits like “Look What You Made Me Do” and “End Game” that surpassed the best pop tours in recent memory. With its visual storytelling and massive set pieces, Taylor Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour is the most theatrical pop concert tour since Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour.
Theatrical, but also movie-like in some ways. The video wall mainly displayed live closeup footage of Swift, which served as a way for fans in the nosebleed sections to see her reactions and intricate dance moves. The camerawork was above average, including special effects, dolly shots and 4K quality that made it feel like you were watching a concert DVD. Swift sang directly to the camera countless times throughout her set, giving everyone a chance to feel like they got some face time with her. Another way the experience felt DVD-like was the inclusion of behind-the-scenes featurettes, which played on the video wall before and after the show.
Another cinematic touch was a gorgeous visual interlude featuring Swift performing an original poem, “Why She Disappeared.” The highly personal poem felt like a missing piece of the reputation album — it would have made a great spoken word interlude track on the LP.
theatrical pop concert tour since Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour."
Musically, the show had a cohesive vibe, thanks to a majority of the reputation album track list being performed. But when Swift got in a gondola and flew over the crowd to a b-stage, a welcome shake-up came; opening acts Charli XCX and Camila Cabello joined Swift for a joyous, pure pop rendition of her US #1 hit “Shake It Off.” Once XCX and Cabello left the stage, Swift went into full-on singer-songwriter mode, performing a couple songs with just her guitar.
Joan Jett’s classic anthem “Reputation” had blared over the loudspeakers just before the concert began. Released in 1980, the song that somehow still sounds fresh today. It made me wonder if Swift’s own reputation songs will stand that test of time. Swift answered that query in a variety of ways. First, by thanking the crowd for standing by her for 13 years and 25 shows in the local area. Swift also gave special thanks to fans for sticking with her for so long; she told the crowd she was moved to realize she isn’t just a passing phase in fans’ musical journey, but a permanent fixture. Finally, she proved great song craft is what makes songs timeless. Her b-stage acoustic version of reputation track “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” showed even her most current-sounding songs can be stripped back to basics and sound timeless.
She kept the “just me and a guitar” vibe going, prefacing her Minneapolis night one acoustic surprise song with a warning: it was written a long time ago. That didn’t stop most of the crowd from singing along upon realizing it was “Begin Again,” a tender and confessional country single from her 2012 album Red.
Snippets and choruses from past country songs were infused into her stadium-rocking pop hits throughout the night, and these mashups were inspired. Whereas The 1989 World Tour gave its few country throwback songs pop and rock makeovers, Reputation Stadium Tour embraces the country versions to the immense joy of the crowd. One of the biggest roars of the night came after Swift nonchalantly referenced her career beginnings in Nashville, Tennessee.
Swift returned to the main stage to perform more full-scale numbers with her band and dancers, including a standout performance of her country hit “Should’ve Said No,” which was mixed into a performance of her similarly-themed pop anthem “Bad Blood.” The country-pop infusions culminated in an epic performance of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” mashed up with the reputation standout “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” During “Nice Things,” the video wall transformed into a fancy hotel, which was blown to smithereens as Swift belted lyrics about ex-friends unworthy of her generosity. The imagery was evocative of how the tour itself is breaking the mold of what a stadium tour can be. Taylor Swift has proven that a stadium show should feel just as intimate as one of her Secret Sessions living room concerts — and can, if she wills it to be so.
A beacon of pure pop energy, Charli XCX performed an electric set in a see-through holographic jumpsuit. XCX led the crowd through choreographed movement and cheers, effortlessly getting the party started. She also declared the stadium a safe space during a touching dedication to her LGBT fans.
Her radio hits “Boom Clap,” “I Love It,” and “Fancy” had the US Bank Stadium crowd singing along to every word. She also played newer tracks like the glittering “Unlock It” and the dark, sultry hip-hop/pop hybrid “5 in the Morning.” The latter would sound at home on a playlist with tracks from Swift’s reputation album.
Fresh off winning Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards, Camila Cabello walked on stage at US Bank Stadium wearing a custom-made Minnesota Vikings football jersey, belting her top ten-charting “Never Be the Same.” Joined by a live band and some free styling dancers, Cabello confessed she loves performing in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
“You guys are a music city. There’s no crowd louder,” she said, smiling from ear to ear. “Any time I come to this city, the crowds are so loud.”
Another personalized touch came when Cabello snuck in a musical tribute to Minneapolis’ own Prince. Cabello’s band mixed samples from Prince’s iconic hit “Kiss” into a dance break portion of her set.
Performances of deep cuts from her debut album Camila stood out, proving she has more potential hits waiting on the sidelines. She closed out her charismatic set with her US #1 hit “Havana.” It was the perfect monster hit song to fully warm up the stadium crowd before the woman of the hour, Taylor Swift, emerged.
You can find upcoming dates to Taylor Swift's Reputation World Tour here.