Music

Taylor Swift's '1989' Tour Isn't Full of Bad Blood, It's Full of Heart (Photos)

Taylor Swift can't help but make new friends everywhere she goes. The 60,000 people who saw her each night at the Meadowlands can attest to that.


Taylor Swift
City: East Rutherford, NJ
Venue: Metlife Stadium
Date: 2015-07-10

Whether you were a diehard fan of Taylor Swift before you arrived at the Metlife Stadium (countless young girls were crafting signs of praise for the artist on the train to the venue) or you were a boyfriend showing your lady adoration (or making amends) by getting her tickets for the summer's hottest tour, Swift's performance brought all in attendance closer to the artist than they were before. Her impressive setlist (generally the same for the whole 1989 tour and listed below) isn't just a smash and grab run through her catalog. Sure there is a lot of spectacle, including several costume changes, blasts of sparks, backup dancers and a rising platform that lifts her several feet above the arena floor, but, what really makes the evening special is the generous heaping of heart Swift gives. Swift elongated the evening with messages about friendship (she didn't believe she had any for a long time) and personal reflections on empowerment for individuals feeling downtrodden (be positive and don't worry about what people think about you stuff).

Now, with multi-millions of albums sold, Swift is capable of lifting up her friends and she is generous in sharing the stage with them. Some of those friends include her opening acts, Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy and the three sisters from Los Angeles who make up the rock band HAIM. Although HAIM may have been too aggressive musically at times for the young audience, it was their first night on the tour and they were more than happy to be playing the stadium. Vance Joy, who had been on earlier, was more agreeable musically with his quieter guitar and, for the primarily female audience, his winsome looks. During her performance, Swift surprised the crowd with something different from her own music as she did a duet with Abel Tesfaye, better known as the The Weeknd, on his song "Can't Feel My Face". Tesfaye was just the first surprise friend that dropped by, things got even wilder later. During "Style", Heidi Klum was welcomed to the catwalk followed by the US Women's National Soccer team continuing their victory celebration (there was a ticker-tape parade in their honor in New York City earlier in the day). Further into the night, during the performance of her latest single "Bad Blood", Swift invited out Hailee Steinfeld, Lena Dunham, Gigi Hadid and Lily Aldridge to "recreate" the epic video for the song.

"Bad Blood" is amazingly catchy, (despite it's band-aid line) as are the majority of Swift's 1989 songs. I wasn't well aware of her stuff before this album, but after listening to 1989, I was impressed. It is a great album for a summer car ride. The particular sequence of songs, "Blank Space", "Style" and "Out of the Woods", make up some of the most enjoyable music I've heard in a long time. And best of all, it was a great show, if you could shave off some of the time for her monologues. Despite Swift's genuine passion as she shares her positive messages, it does stretch the running time of the show. Yet I can't blame her. Particularly for younger fans, Swift's heartfelt messages, along with glowing bracelets that lit up in unison to some behind-the-scenes machina, instill the sensation that you are a welcome part of something bigger.

Vance Joy:

HAIM:

Taylor Swift:

Taylor Swift setlist for July 10, 2015:

Welcome to New York

New Romantics

Blank Space

I Knew You Were Trouble

I Wish You Would

How You Get the Girl

I Know Places

All You Had to Do Was Stay

(The Weeknd's) Can't Feel My Face (with The Weeknd)

You are in Love

Clean

Love Story

Style

This Love

Bad Blood

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Wildest Dreams

Out of the Woods

Shake It Off

A photo posted by Joe Saturday (@joe_saturday) on

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

 
9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.


 
8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

 
7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

 
6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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