They caution you to never meet your heroes, so I suppose it’s a good thing that I didn’t meet Taylor Swift while seeing her in concert at The Eras Tour a couple of weeks ago. I did, however, watch her perform a three-hour set that my friend aptly described as a religious experience.
The Eras Tour: A Once-In-An-Era Experience
This was my first time attending “church,” but I am no newbie to the religion of Taylor Swift. I’ve been listening to her music since the early days of her debut album. It came out in 2006, when I was in middle school, and it feels like I’ve grown up alongside her. She’s gotten me through love and loss, heartbreak and happiness, and I often joke that there’s a Taylor Swift song or lyric for every situation.
So it was an absolute privilege to survive the Great War of pre-sale before the Ticketmaster collapse. I attended night one at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., along with three of my friends. Our seats were just 10 rows up from the floor and ever-so-slightly off-center from the end of the catwalk.
I don’t think I can understate how incredible it was to see her. Not only was it my first time seeing Swift, but it was my first concert of anywhere near this scale. It was truly like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Whether you’re one of the lucky ones with tickets or not, I wanted to share what it was like to attend The Eras Tour and, for those who are going, help you make the most of it!
Who’s Taylor Swift, Anyway? And What’s The Eras Tour?
I probably don’t need to provide much introduction for 12-time Grammy-winning superstar Taylor Swift. But I do want to talk a bit more about what makes The Eras Tour so special. Yes, the 44-song setlist is definitely part of that, along with the multitude of other well-known folks that are opening throughout the 60-plus tour dates(I saw Phoebe Bridgers and Gayle – a little more on that later)!
But to truly appreciate the magnitude of The Eras Tour, you need to appreciate the eras and all they signify. Taylor Swift has released 10 studio albums in the 17 years since her debut, and each has a distinct feel. They’re distinguished by anything from the genre and musical quality to her personal style and infamous exes. They all have their own character, and even non-Swifties can probably recognize the shift between the edgier, angrier “Reputation” and bright, bubbly “Lover” (Yes, I am grossly oversimplifying this because there is a case for “Reputation” being one of her most romantic albums).
With each of her 10 albums and eras, there was some level of re-invention or change. She is, after all, a phoenix, always rising from the ashes. And the way that translates into this over-the-top tour is nothing short of gorgeous.
Each of her albums gets a unique treatment on stage, with its own separate portion of the show. They immerse you in that era through not only the songs but the staging, costumes and so much more. They don’t all receive equal performance time; the four albums that came out since her last pre-COVID-19 Pandemic tour have the most songs, and “Speak Now” only gets one.
To help with this disparity, she plays two highly anticipated “surprise songs” at every show. Let me emphasize that a bit more: she has more than 40 songs in her regular meticulously rehearsed repertoire, plus two new additions that she memorizes for every single concert of The Eras Tour. Oh yeah, did I mention the surprise songs are an acoustic set? She accompanies her vocals by playing one song on guitar and one on piano!
For my show, those songs were “Should’ve Said No,” off her debut album on the guitar and a piano rendition of “Better Man,” a vault track from the “Red” album. The latter featured a very sweet introduction about how she wrote the song and gave it to country group Little Big Town, who went on to win many awards for it, including a Grammy.
She’s a Mastermind
Swift loves to acknowledge other musical artists, so it was no surprise that she spoke highly of Little Big Town. It was, however, a bit of a surprise that she brought opener Phoebe Bridgers back out for a beautiful performance of their duet “Nothing New” (although there were rumors). And, like with the two surprise songs, it was a simple staging with just the two singers and their guitars, leaving no room for the critics to say that Taylor Swift lip-syncs.
Of course, these acoustic performances are in stark comparison to the massive production value of other tracks. The scale ranges from stripped-back to a full band alongside a few backup singers and at least a dozen dancers. The stage has several sections that the performers move about, along with massive screens for close-ups and other graphics. There are pyrotechnics and special lighting effects, props and elevated platforms. She changes her entire outfit (microphone included!) more than 10 times throughout the show, with at least one for each era – plus a host of other partial costume changes.
The show is so precisely produced, down to every dance move and song introduction. I will say that sometimes it felt a little over-produced. It was so scripted and choreographed that it kind of cheapened certain moments, like when she compliments the crowd (Side note: I don’t think anyone else has ever called that place “Foxy Foxborough”). But there were a few special unscripted moments, and I give her a pass for not really going “off book.” The enormity and complexity of each show and The Eras Tour as a whole is almost unfathomable.
The Whole Place Was Dressed to the Nines
As I mentioned, her set alone was well over three hours, and that’s in addition to a couple of openers. It’s a long show! That, dear reader, means that you want to be comfortable.
When you first enter The Eras Tour, or really when you first hit the traffic a few miles away, one of the first things you notice is all the outfits. People go all out dressing up, and it’s so fun to people-watch! That being said, my friends and I are well past the days of the cute-but-chilly sparkly dresses and heels.
The good news is that with Swift’s many eras, there are many ways to dress on-theme and still be comfortable. I made the iconic “a lot going on at the moment” shirt at the last minute, but there are lots of ways to incorporate your favorite album’s aesthetic with pieces you probably already own, and you can’t go wrong with a “Folklore”-style cardigan or a flannel in the “Evermore” color palette.
Make the Friendship Bracelets
If you’re attending The Eras Tour, I suggest you get ready for it by learning about the tour-specific happenings.
For example, there are fun audience chants throughout the night, like singing along to the bridges of certain songs or the “Taylor, you’ll be fine” that the audience reassuringly yells during “Anti-Hero,” the lead single off her most recent album “Midnights.” Brush up on your cues, and prepare to join in!
Last but not least, there are the friendship bracelets* that attendees trade with different song names, quotes and Swiftie references. Those who know me should not be surprised that I went overboard with the craft time! I had a blast making them, ranging from the very-obvious “Love Story” to the very obscure “I Knit Sweaters, Yo” (please tell me someone gets this)!
We were a little unsure how to go about actually trading them, so in case you are too, it’s easy. You literally just ask! My first trade was some girls who saw my bracelets and stopped me, and we ended up with a perfect exchange of “RIP me, I died, dead” for “she’s dead.”
It Was the Best Night
To make a long story short, attending The Eras Tour exceeded everything I imagined in my wildest dreams. Whether you’re a newer Swiftie, a long-timer like me or even a non-Swiftie who somehow snagged a seat, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Swift does such an incredible job of utilizing the full stage and space, engaging with the audience (as much as you can in a massive stadium) and putting on a production. It’s an immersive experience, down to everyone’s light-up bracelets that sync with the music to flash different colors and patterns.
If you are attending The Eras Tour, I hope you have an absolutely enchanted evening! And if you aren’t, then I hope this lets you live vicariously for a virtual night seeing Taylor Swift.
*Swifties are calling them friendship bracelets. Most of them are stretchy bracelets with plastic beads. The former Camp Kid in me needs to make this distinction clear between this and an actual friendship bracelet, which is generally a knotted or woven pattern made from embroidery floss.
Thanks for reading about my experience at The Eras Tour! If you like my kind of trash, you can read more here and follow me on Twitter @trashsandwiches.