For those that survived The Great War via Ticketmaster to secure tickets to The Eras Tour the mission didn’t end there. Next came costumes, selling out all the local craft stores of stretch cord and pony beads (guilty), and let’s not forget the crawling 15 mph drive from any point in central Florida into Tampa. Local new stations and Raymond James Stadium warned us to prepare for excessive traffic but until you’re actually one of 70,000 people trying to park the sentiment doesn’t mean much. The good thing about Florida building their stadiums in the middle of Old Florida neighborhoods? The Floridian spirit is alive and well for and $40 you can park securely (with restrooms!) across from the stadium with zero preplanning in Linda’s front yard.
There has been stressing and obsessing about the Era’s merch truck in every city hit thus far, with cities setting up sales the day before and lines exceeding hours long. While the ability to handle your merch purchases before the show and not having to keep track while enjoying the show feels like a plus, there are many people that feel the merch should be available to ticket holders only, or on a first basis. With certain items selling out before the first show night even starts, it’s hard to argue with that. The good news is that some of the best souvenirs from a Swift show aren’t found at the merch stand, it’s actually usually confetti and Taylor’s light up bracelets for the crowd. You can still buy confetti from the 1989 and Reputation tours from fans online, along with themed confetti delivered with merch purchased from Taylor’s internet store. The Era’s Tour brought us a new souvenir however, that is potentially one of the coolest things that could have come to fruition. Remember the craft store rise in sales? On Taylor’s latest release Midnights, "You’re On Your Own, Kid" (track 5, iykyk) she belts out “so make the friendship bracelets/take the moment and taste it/you’ve got no reason to be afraid” and like .. you don’t have to tell us twice. People arrived with anywhere from a few to hundreds of bracelets to trade. Representing different Eras, songs, albums, jokes, the creativity was endless and connected fans in an entirely new way. Even the stadium workers were sporting gifted bracelets and excitedly joining in on the fun.
It is Night One of the Eras Tour in Tampa. It is the 13th of April, a critical number in Swift Universe (check the hand of the people around you, someone has it drawn on). If I had to guess what would kick off the night I would have easily guessed one of the singles off of Midnights, and I would be entirely wrong. The Taylor countdown started while Lesley Gore croons “You Don’t Own Me” and attempts to be heard over the screeching crowd. “It’s been a long time coming,” weaves its way through the stadium as the Lover house begins to form on the backdrop screen. Various Taylor voice clips from the years echo through the crowd and Taylor is led to center stage by large sprawling pink and blue cloud fans. We begin with The Lover Era. The Eras Tour leads us off with "Miss Americana and The Heartbreak Prince." Once it happens this makes total sense to me. The first album to have its live performances stolen by the pandemic, we have picked up exactly where we left off. It certainly has been a long time coming. Tampa is the first stop on the tour with an open stadium, the spring sunset glows pink and yellow across the backdrop and this is the closest to Lover Fest it feels like we will ever get. Among the friendship bracelets, Taylor’s gifted light up bracelets to the fans create hearts and color schemes within the crowd, a typical facet of a Swift Tour. During "Cruel Summer" Taylor asks us to cross the first bridge of the night, together, and fans have waited years for this exact moment. Screaming drunk in the back of our cars (or bathrooms!), preparing our vocal cords for the stress of this bridge breakdown. Jeeze Taylor, we’ve barely had a chance to warm up.
“You’re really making me feel … powerful. You’re making me feel like I’m about to headline three sold out shows at this stadium,” her blinding bedazzled blazer is put on over her crystalline bodysuit. “I guess what I’m trying to say is, you’re making me feel like I’m The Man.” While some of the hits are shortened to create the capacity to cover as much of her discography as possible, it’s not overly jarring and the Swifties navigate the changes quickly. Golden sparks waterfall down the backdrop, the Lover house burns, and we have officially completed the first Era of the night.
The twinkling guitar blasts us back to high school with heart hands, unrequited love, and swinging gold dresses, we have briefly entered the Fearless Era for three major hits. Hearing Taylor announce we will be traversing the last seventeen years of her music put into perspective just how long she has been singing the soundtracks of our lives. The Evermore Era experiences a slight hardware mishap requiring someones assistance, but Taylor jokes her way through the situation with the crowd. As she sits at the Evermore piano post “Champagne Problems” the crowd screams for an intense extended period including “Taylor” chants every time she attempts to speak. “Oh so you’re the best crowd, huh? Okay, I love you guys.” The most poignant moment of this Era stop, however, had to be during “Marjorie.” Hearing Taylor’s grandmother’s vocalizations ring through the night air with her granddaughter performing to a sold out stadium hit me with emotions I wasn’t expecting, so I can only imagine how intensely that must feel for Taylor and family night after night. It won out only slightly over seeing a broken begging Taylor crawl over a dinner table begging for attention during “Tolerate It.”
Tapping heels and slithering hissing snakes have thrown us into the Reputation Era; the last Swift album able to be celebrated live all the way back in 2018. The album’s opener “…Ready For It?” leads us into fan favorite “Delicate” which features one of the best live fan interactions of her touring history. The lighting rig during “Don’t Blame Me” shoots vertical beams stories into the air which had Tampa residents calling into emergency lines over alien concerns, but the lead in to Reputation’s first single “Look What You Made Me Do” twists the lyrics “don’t blame me/ for what you made me do.” This new delivery is powerful and the volume of the crowd reaches defcon levels. For the briefest moment we are transported to the softest of soft moments with swirling purple hues and echoing pleas as “Enchanted” is performed to hold place for the Speak Now Era. The singular song performance leaves much to be desired for the album, but luckily Tampa wasn’t finished with Speak Now quite yet, and would circle back in just a few segments.
“As you might have been able to decipher from the aggressive blatant color blocking, we are currently in the Red Era,” Taylor laughs. The lead into the Era has one of the dancers opening different red crates causing various lines of Red songs to play, the crowd screams along the next lyric in time (okay.. we tried our best to keep time for Holy Ground). Taylor gives an emotional speech about the time frame of being 21 through 23 and how beautiful and brutal that time in your life can be. Taylor flashing the number 3 twice with her hands during “22” gets a laugh from gen of fans that aged on time with her. And I’m not sure if it’s her discussing the bridge between childhood and adulthood and growing up, or seeing a sold out stadium full of people scream the same songs we blasted over ten years ago during some of the first hardest times of our lives, but the Red Era hits deep. Despite upbeat singles for the majority of this Era stop, the Red era closes out with “All Too Well (10 Minute Version).” These lives performances prove it doesn’t matter who the muse of the song was about, because for ten solid minutes there are approximately 70,000 people having that song screamed out into the universe in their general direction, night in and night out. Oof.
While at first I couldn’t understand exactly what direction of stops we were taking through the Swiftography I did note the back and forth between Eras lent the opportunity to have tempo rest breaks (while still standing, dancing, and singing mind you) from high energy bops to slower melodies. The Folklore Era lulls you in with a spoken word of “seven“ meshed with elements of “Wildest Dreams” that feels like it was poetry from the start long before it was put to melody. When folklore first released my obsessive brain was instantly drawn to “the last great american dynasty” but with the pandemic in full swing and the change of style from Taylor’s normal releases, seeing that song performed live seemed like a pipe dream. And yet it happened, watching Rebecca Harkness dance around the stage before handing the metaphorical deed of Holiday House off to Taylor on the steps of the seaside home. The dreamy foliage covered cottage, the love triangle trio songs, the funeral march of “my tears ricochet,” brought the folklore album to life in a way that did not feel tangible. The songs lend themselves to a small intimate setting and somehow Taylor is able to create that feeling despite being the furthest thing from.
We are back to high energy on one of our final stops before the end of the evening, the 1989 Era. The album that shifted Taylor Swift from her country roots flirting with pop to a record shattering pop star. While Taylor dances around in a new glittery orange two piece with matching boots the crowd reaches unfathomable levels of screaming during the breakdown of “Shake It Off.” The burnt remnants of the Lover house has Taylor storming through its walls during a fierce close out with “Bad Blood” while the stadium had fire blasts erupting throughout the crowd.
If you haven’t experienced Taylor live, typically she will lend her acoustic guitar to a surprise song for the crowd, usually performed only once on a tour and sometimes a song that she hasn’t performed live until that point. On the Eras Tour the surprise song segment has gifted both an acoustic song along with a piano performance. Since opening night fans have been crossing songs off of their potential lists as they are performed and trying to find a potential Easter Egg in every choice. The only exception on repeats, Taylor noted, is being songs off of Midnights, or if she messes up quite notably. “So uhm, heh, I’ve been thinking a lot about one of my albums recently, one of my albums has been on my mind a lot,“ Taylor teases a title track before the crowd was gifted a second pitstop back to the Speak Now era. “You are singing this so loud, it’s delightful!” Followed by a “Oh my god.. wait, wait death march and I am hi—I am hiding in the curtain!” So there you have it folks, while Tampa may have gotten Speak Now on the 13th but it came with a misstep, so it could resurface! Flawlessly, however, was our piano version of Red’s "Treacherous," so that one can formally be crossed off the Surprise Song list.
Looking around during some of the more intense moments during the night, you can see a range of emotions flit across the faces of those in attendances. "Tolerate It," "My Tears Ricochet," "All Too Well," and "Treacherous" finds tears streaming down the faces of our stranger-neighbors. While "Lover" and "Love Story" have the tears flowing because of the amount of proposals and first dances occurring in the crowd. It’s hard to believe that Tampa has reached the final stop on its first sold out night as we dab the glitter out of our eyes and attempt to control the humidity sweat; we have finally reached the Midnights Era. Over the course of our journey the sun has fully set, it is the closest to midnight we will get with noise ordinances, Taylor climbs into a cloud before the opening beat of “Lavender Haze” blazes through the air like we’re suddenly at an open space festival. Of course we are closing out with Midnights, how could I have ever thought differently? We traversed the stories, pain, and hope of the past and have arrived here, in the glimmering, electronic, unrelenting present. Despite being over thirty-five songs, numerous costume changes, and hours of cardio in, Midnights is given the full treatment with seven songs being performed from the album. Midnights is not a slow paced album by any stretch, so we are ending on a high, one final throw down for the last two decades of our lives. “Vigilante Shit” is performed with Taylor leading a sultry chair dance ensemble, classic vengeful woman musical style, at nearly the three hour mark, but her energy continues full force. The night closes out with “Karma,” our bracelets lighting up the night long before the 360 degree celebratory display of fireworks have the chance to (we love open stadiums, we love you Florida), Taylor and the crowd showing love to her dancers, vocalists, and band before being the last to exit the stage.
Stadium shows will lend the cool moments that occur nightly of course, like one of the dancers having the “because she’s dead” honor this tour and of course writing a letter to our fifteen year old selves midshow that we “definitely got to scream fuck at the Taylor Swift concert.” And of course the addition of "Anti-Hero" and "Bejeweled" receiving new crowd interactions shouted and danced during the live performances. You’re bound to have unique moments though, especially on opening night, and especially on the 13th. The crowd looking around confused as Taylor thanked Gracie Abrahams for opening, it happens, and is definitely not the first artist I’ve seen misspeak like this. Taylor then later letting us know that while usually 13 is a good number, tonight it is “the exact number of brain cells I have,” as she corrected the opener to Gayle and apologized to both artists and beabadoobee for bearing witness and promised gifts. Taylor being a total “one of us” as she proudly exclaimed she got a new dress, I just really needed to know if it had pockets as well. Taylor knowing that she will have zero control of her hair while in the state of Florida and appreciating the humidity turning her hair curlier and curlier. Minor malfunctions seemed to plague the night (stage dive door not opening on time, wardrobe malfunctions, gear and sound issues) but they were handled with grace and at most brought laughs from the crowd. Taylor truly is the master of secret moments in crowded room. While previous tours may have made me cry, the Eras Tour left me beaming with pride as we exited the show, Swifties still screaming along to the tour’s soundtrack playing overhead.
Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince / Cruel Summer / The Man / You Need To Calm Down / Lover/ The Archer
Fearless / You Belong With Me / Love Story
‘tis the damn season / willow / marjorie / champagne problems / tolerate it
…Ready For It? / Delicate / Don’t Blame Me / Look What You Made Me Do
22 / We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together / I Knew You Were Trouble / All Too Well (10 Minute Version)
the 1 / betty / the last great american dynasty / august / illicit affairs/ my tears ricochet / cardigan
Style / Blank Space / Shake It Off / Wildest Dreams / Bad Blood
Speak Now / Treacherous (night one) / The Great War with Aaron Dessner / You’re on Your Own, Kid (night two) / mad woman with Aaron Dessner / Mean (night three)
Lavandar Haze / Anti-Hero / Midnight Rain / Vigilante Shit / Bejeweled / Mastermind / Karma