The weather in Great Britain is known to be completely atrocious for three out of four seasons, so after spring has sprung and things start heating up, there’s an unquenchable desire to celebrate the simple things – like wearing t-shirts and shorts whilst enjoying an ice cream simultaneously.
British Summer Time, or BST as it’s fondly known, is now in its third year following two successful runs after the grounds were monopolized for the 2012 Olympic Games festivities. The Strokes, Blur, and Kylie Minogue have all headlined their own respective days of this almost fortnight-long festival, but only tonight’s headliner Ms. Taylor Swift, has completely sold it out; and weeks in advance at that. After all, she’s one of the biggest pop stars in the world, this is the first time she’ll debut her 1989 tour in the English capital, and in her spare time she wins battles with gargantuan corporations like Apple.
The demographic of a Taylor Swift fan is a curious thing. The women to men ratio is exactly what you’d imagine: women. Mainly. Yummy mummies with their pampered children, single young professionals with their friends and an almighty plethora of pre-pubescent teenage girls. ‘Taylor Swift’ is painted on various faces and limbs, lovingly handmade banners are held, coloured fairly lights are sewn into both clothing and signs, there’s a sea of official merchandise from this tour and those previous and even a smattering of official “TS” cheerleader outfits from the “Shake It Off” video. It’s an impressive army by anyone’s standards indeed.
Swift eagerly takes to the stage a full 15 minutes earlier than scheduled. It’s somewhat poignant that in Hyde Park, the piece of land that Central Park was modelled on, she begins with “Welcome to New York”. Above her signature smiling red lipstick, sunglasses adorn her giddy face and she dances up a storm in a sparkly green bomber jacket over a high-waisted purple skater skirt and a modest black bra top with shimmery black ankle boots. When the opening song wraps she animatedly pulls off her shades. Cue her predictable shocked face. But it’s not annoying anymore, it’s an intrinsic part of her image and right now, it’s fairly charming.
She launches into “New Romantics”, one of the bonus tracks from the deluxe edition of 1989, followed by her high-charting single “Blank Space” which see dancers each pushing large mobile frames out onto the catwalk for Swift to weave in and out of, drawing symmetry to the music video whilst menacingly wielding a golf club.
Next is the track that arguably catapulted her to global superstardom, the crushing heartbreak anthem “I Knew You Were Trouble” from the Red album. The poppy Max Martin-produced single is almost unrecognisable when it begins. Swift slumps down onto the catwalk, sitting back to back with a male dancer, beads of sweat now visible on her brow as she sings the track darkly, multiple octaves lower and over minimal instrumentation. So sombre and resonating, that it’s almost gothic.
In between songs Swift could almost give Kanye West a run for his money with her monologues about love and self-worth. The main difference is that they aren’t focused on her; they’re focused on sending waves of motivation and positivity to her fans.Loud drops of rain pour from the stage screens and a graphic of a large bridge is prominent whilst male dancers in grey suits and bowler hats, twirl with transparent umbrellas. Swift emerges in a pink crop top and matching pink ’50s diner skirt, both flash LED lights as she sweetly performs “I Wish You Would” and “How You Get the Girl”.
She follows with by far her raciest number yet, a white sweetheart tube top with white short shorts with over-the-knee black boots that evolve into black suspenders. Providing the entertainment at the annual Victoria’s Secrets shows in New York in 2013 and London in 2014 has clearly rubbed off on Swift, because now not only does she ooze kink and sex-appeal, but she can really strut those seemingly never-ending pins. Which are insured for a cool 40 million dollars.
The catwalk breaks away from the stage to extend and rise over the audience, slowly moving in a semi-circle while Swift’s acoustic guitar gently weeps bonus track “You Are in Love” and the crowd sing backing lyrics upon her instruction. To showcase her multi-instrumentalist talents, she then plays a keyboard and reworks “Love Story”, one of the hits from her second album “Fearless’” to keep it consistent with the sound of 1989. An inspired choice, and throwing an older song into tonight’s set not only shows a tangible division between old and new fans, but also that Swift hasn’t forgotten her country music roots.
Clad in an unforgivingly tight leather catsuit, she performs “Bad Blood”. Swift lays, slides and purrs on thick slabs of rectangular glass, which are moved around the stage by her dancers in representation to the music video minus the rap.
The lead single from Red follows. “We Are Never Getting Back Together” had single folk everywhere warbling it for months and months with their ex in mind, but tonight Swift sheds the cute, preppy, cookie-cutter appeal of this song and has reworked it for this tour. Still sporting said leather catsuit, she plays an electric guitar belligerently, moshing with ferociousness whilst an array of images of her in various abstract hair/make-up/clothes flash up on the stage screens in a “Seven Nation Army” style video. Black, red, and white triangles speedily move through one another. It’s incredibly bizarre, it strips away all trace of identity and most importantly, it’s kind of frightening.
At almost all of Swift’s concerts, there’s a dedicated slot for impassioned piano-playing. Wearing a sequinned gold pantsuit, she plays the ballad “Wildest Dreams” as enormous fountains of sparklers brightly crackle to the sides of the stage. She ditches the ivories for her next song, “Out of the Woods” and the stage is transformed into a creepy forest with an illuminating full moon graphic and dancers run up and down the catwalk flying giant paper aeroplanes on long sticks, to coincide with lyrics.
With nearly every track from 1989 having been played, there’s only one left. The feel-good lead single “Shake if Off”. One final costume change and she’s in a fringed crop top and high-waisted skirt – have you noticed a theme? She’s delved into the world of bare-midriff but has negotiated the bellybutton. Her dancers are dapper in suits and Swift is a glamorous showgirl as she coquettishly encourages her fans to shake off players, haters, heartbreakers and fakers.
The wristbands that every concertgoer was given upon entry to the park have mostly been activated since darkness fell and now somewhat magically light up to correspond with stage colours. Once ‘Shake It Off’ is in full swing, every soul is shaking what their mamma gave ‘em, making for a fabulous sea of gleaming rainbow colours, one by one. Swift shouts out praise to her band, dancers and backing singers, takes a bow and then exits the stage with poise and grace. An innovative artist whose girl-next-door image is still relatable despite her significant monetary wealth, a formidable businesswoman, and a feminist in the true sense of the word, Swift is not quite a queen yet, but most definitely a princess of hearts.