June 1st and 2nd should forever be known as Taylor Swift weekend in Chicago from now on. Last Friday and Saturday nights, Swift took over Soldier Field with her biggest spectacle of a show to date – two sold out nights full of snake references, costume changes and mash-ups of her biggest songs to date. After seeing Swift eight times before the Reputation tour (can you tell I’m a massive fan?) I was prepared to expect the unexpected – even though it was nearly impossible to attend the show spoiler-free with the constant tweets flooding my timeline from fellow fans and update accounts (I could have unfollowed them, but part of me also needs to know everything that’s going on 24/7 during touring season).
Since the show was the exact same each night, minus the surprise song that Swift swaps out about a third of the way into the show) there’s really no point in me reviewing both shows separately, so this will be sort of a mash-up of both nights. I saw the show from two different sections at Soldier Field on opposites sides of each other, so I mean it when I say I was able to see the show from a brand new vantage point both nights, which was a really cool aspect that one may not be able to experience if they only attend one show date (you would be surprised how many T.Swift fans travel the country for her shows – I’ve done it).
The first night, the Friday night traffic on Lakeshore Drive made it impossible for me to get to the stadium by 7pm to see UK pop singer Charli XCX open the show – but I was able to see her set on the second night. I am sure that most of my readers are familiar with Charli (as well as Camila) so I will spare the background info, but I was really impressed with her energy and ability to rile up an audience of people who I would (mostly) assume aren’t too familiar with her discography. I say this because there were so many people around me on night two that were definitely 10 to 15-years-old and probably don’t know songs like “Boom Clap,” “Boys” and “Unlock It” (My favorite Charli song that definitely deserves to be a single). It was almost like she was serving as a hype-woman to get people pumped up for the show. Her music has a party feel more than Camila or past openers for Taylor and like her duty was to get the crowd warmed up, not like she was trying to pitch her music to a ton of unfamiliar listeners.
Leading up to this tour, I read so many tweets from people questioning why Charli was going on tour with Taylor when she is a successful artist on her own (she has 8.6 million followers across her social media channels). Similar to the girl-group HAIM – who opened for Taylor on the 1989 tour – the answer is simple. It’s true, both artists have their own fans in their own right and can easily headline their own tours, but opening up for one of the biggest pop-stars in the world (if not the biggest, who else as big as Taylor right now and has fans across all demographics like she does?) allows the artists to find new fans that may not have ever heard their music aside from seeing them open for Swift. Touring with artists who are similar to them isn’t really the most logical decision and I don’t see how anyone would ever turn down the opportunity to tour with Swift. Look at who has done it in the past: Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes, just to name two – who are both massive superstars today. Clearly, the formula worked.
After seeing Charli on night two and Camila on both nights, I was surprised that I ended up preferring Charli over Camila in terms of live performance. I got to my seat right as Camila started her set on night one, but ended up getting up to buy alcohol (forgive me) but saw her entire set on night two – and I don’t mean to make any accusations here, but I’m almost certain she was lip-syncing. After all, she was unable to perform with Taylor at their show in Seattle on May 22 due to dehydration and having a fever, which was just ten days before the Chicago shows. It was odd because it seemed like she would switch off between singing live and lip-syncing during the set and I noticed this far more on night two over night one. It would make sense that she was struggling to keep up her vocals since she is only 21 and probably not used to this intense of a touring schedule compared to what she was doing with Fifth Harmony over the past few years. Regardless of what your opinion is on lip-syncing, I was really impressed with her stage presence and overall confidence, after all she was in a girl group with four other women and I can imagine that it’s not an easy transition to performing as a solo artist.
The transition between Camila and Taylor seemed to go by fast as the massive screens onstage featured videos of Taylor fans freaking out over music videos…some snippets from the Reputation secret sessions (google it, I have written enough in this post already) and “the making of” videos for “Look What You made Me Do” and “Ready For It.” Moments later, the screens go blank as the two songs that signal Taylor’s entrance started playing. **SPOILER ALERT** skip a few lines if you haven’t seen the show yet and want to be surprised. The songs are “Obsessed” by Mariah Carey and “Reputation” by Joan Jett – fitting, right? Mega Swift fans were aware of this signal. Taylor’s set at the Red Tour began after “American Girl” by Tom Petty played and “Summer” by Calvin Harris for the 1989 Tour.
The beginning of the set starts off with a short video that features voiceovers from a variety of journalists who have reported on Taylor Swift over the last few years, focusing on her “downfall” and the death of her reputation. The screens go blank again as her shadow appears onstage: the first words spoken “Are you ready for it?” and massive smoke machines go off on cue as she makes her entrance onto the stage from in between the stages. I can’t think of any other song that would make more sense as an opener – she is quite literally asking the crowd if they’re ready for the show. I love that she was able to use it for that! The song is performed seamlessly for Swift, who doesn’t do too much wandering up and down the massive runways that form an X into the crowd, she stays in mostly one place as if she is giving the crowd a peek into the show without giving away too much. The next song, “I Did Something Bad,” was probably my favorite performance of the night and going into it from “Ready For It” gave it the perfect energy that it needed. THe song is one of my favorites off the album, so it’s no surprise that it was also one of my favorite performances from the show. Paired with fireworks, the beginning of the song was slowed down, giving Taylor the room to throw in some big notes that aren’t in the recorded version of the song: but the best part of the song was hearing the fan-favorite line “If a man talk shit, than I owe him nothing” – as she simultaneously throws her hand in the air, as if she was waving goodbye to all of the internalized misogyny and sexism she’s faced throughout her career.
Taylor continued her show with “Gorgeous,” throwing in a “Hi Chicago, you look so beautiful tonight…what’s the word for it?” This was my cue for a bathroom break on night one. If you have read about my opinion on Reputation as an album, you know how much I despise this song. I did see her perform it on night two and I appreciated the dance moves and the moments she took to introduce her background singers and dancers. Very sweet!
**WARNING: Setlist spoilers ahead!**
Next up, a mash-up of “Style,” “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me,” a great way to weave in some of her biggest songs into the setlist without giving too much time in the set to old tunes that she’s performed many times (I’ve heard her sing love Story nine times at this point). It was cool to see how many longtime fans were in attendance as this songs brought massive singalongs to the stadium, and my mom was particularly happy hearing these songs from her.
Next up: “Look What You Made Me Do.” Surprising to see this song as the fifth she performed, as it was a strong contender to be the closing song of the tour. The snake theme was at its peak during this performance: a giant snake (I’m assuming it was like a blow up figure?) Appears onstage right before the bridge begins. Not to mention that Taylor starts the song on a tilted stage (Hey Kanye). I will admit that I was glad this wasn’t closing the show, as it’s a weird song from Swift and I’m personally still confused with her POV when she decided to release it as the leading single from the album. Regardless, it definitely got the crowd riled up and kept the energy going into the next songs: “End Game” and one of my favorites, “King Of My Heart.”
The current single, “Delicate” was up next, as Taylor maneuvered herself into a flying basket that took her from the main stage to the first b-stage on the back of the floor. Before the first show, I was talking to my friend Nic, hoping that Taylor would take a moment to talk about Pride Month, which kicked off on June 1 and also has a huge following in Chicago. Nothing was mentioned on the first night, but she took the time in this part of the set to bring it up on night two, as she was in fact, wearing a rainbow dress, and talking about how difficult and heartbreaking it is to love someone (“Isn’t it delicate?”) Like we all know, Taylor has remained fairly apolitical in the past and has gotten a ton of flack for it, so it was really cool to see her take a clear stance on a controversial topic that can totally turn off some of her fanbase. See the speech below.
The next six songs were performed on both b-stages, the surprise song on night one was “Our Song” (a lame choice in my opinion) and “22” on night two (an even lamer choice). I could name about 30 songs I’d rather hear her sing. Regardless, both songs got the crowd going, which is what is most important, after all. (Cough-cough, Taylor – please play “All Too Well” in Indianapolis).
The show continued on the main stage with another mash-up: this time it was “Bad Blood” with “Should’ve Said No,” which seemed weird at first, but actually worked perfectly. I loved hearing such an old Taylor song with one of her biggest ones (although Bad Blood really isn’t the best song).
After a quick costume change, Swift returned to the stage with a massive performance of “Don’t Blame Me,” another fan-favorite and the biggest work she does vocally on Reputation. I was honestly in awe of this performance and it was SO cool to hear it live with the background vocals and the big note she hits at the end. She seemed so encapsulated in this love-obsessed character and as to nobody’s surprised, she had the perfect facial expressions to go along with the performance. The song itself is a spectacle and seeing visuals along with the song made it come alive probably more than any of the other songs she performed (I would say that “I Did Something Bad” came in a close second).
Next up: the piano is brought out. After a whopping fifteen songs filled with choreographed dance moves and hair flips, Taylor took it back to the piano and delivered yet another mash-up of “Long Live” and “New Year’s Day,” the former being one of my personal favorites from her discography. Seeing Swift’s transition from a country artist to one of the biggest pop stars in the world was cool to witness over the last 10 years of her career: seeing it in one show is another story. Her ability to transform her music into larger-than-life stadium anthems to intimate piano singalongs is what makes her the best of the best, one that really can’t fail as long as she continues to rely on what made her famous to begin with: the songwriting.
A magical moment happened on night two during these performances: it started to downpour. Although she did manage a “oh my gosh, it’s raining,” she literally missed zero notes and managed to continue performing on a soaking wet piano to 50,000+ people.
“I will literally never forget this moment in my entire life,” she said as she escaped offstage for a final costume change.
The show ended with three more songs – but this post is already so long I will make the closing short and sweet. “Getaway Car” had another intro video feature that made me wish the song had more of a spectacle along with the performance (it’s my favorite song off the album), and the performance of “Call It What You Want” felt like an afterthought (another one of my favorites). Closing with “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” and “We Are Never Getting Back Together” were two more songs that worked perfectly as a mash-up, a closing to the show that seemed to perfectly conclude the entire message of her show and her album – whether or not you like that message, it is there.
I’ve seen Taylor on four tours now, and I’ve never seen her more looking more confident, happy and sure of herself than when she did performing on this tour. The Fearless tour (way back in 2009) was Taylor pre-Kanye, pre-slut shaming, etc. The Speak Now tour resulted after the album was slowing making her a household name and received praise for being entirely self-written, but she was still so young and new to the fame that it didn’t allow her to fully shine as a star. The Red Tour was a weird time in her career as she was struggling to find her identity as a pop-country star (although this is my favorite album of hers). The 1989 tour came after the record-breaking album finally solidified her as a pop superstar, but also resulted in a lot of “scandals” in the public eye. The Reputation Tour showcases her “IDGAF” attitude that she has worn as a brand since the album announcement, and although I think that’s truly what she’s thinking, I wonder if it’s going to get old for her. Regardless, it’s not getting old for fans, and giving her the utmost confidence as a live performer. I can’t say it’s my favorite tour of Taylor’s, but that’s because it’s not my favorite album. But I loved seeing it because you can see how happy and comfortable she is and that’s really all you can want as a fan.
Click here to see Tay’s tour dates.
Click here to read my other show reviews. There’s a lot coming up!
- June 9: Middle Kids @ Lincoln Hall
- June 14: Polo & Pan @ Lincoln Hall (I was lucky to be invited to cover this show, it’s dance music and I’m super excited to feature something that’s out of my element!)
- June 15: Overcoats @ Taste of Randolph
- June 21: The Aces @ Millennium Park (A free show!)