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Taylor Swift Celebrated Her 25th Birthday At Z-100 Jingle Ball, Friday, December 12th (And 13th)

Taylor Swift at Jingle Ball 2014, New York City

Taylor Swift at Jingle Ball 2014, New York City

“I know why you choose music, I know why you listen to Z-100. I know why. It’s because you want to escape…” Nearly four hours after I Heart Radio”s Z-100’s Jingle Ball 2014’s relentless and astounding collection of the Western World’s  top pop stars began, the biggest pop star of them all turned 25 years before our eyes and the first thing she did was shed light on the evening. She connected pop music to not love or art or
politics but to escape. It is where the fairytale has a valve and when you open it you can enter something, maybe somewhere else. “You can’t be angry all the time”, Taylor Swift said.

It”s a wise comment by a woman who still empathizes with her audience much more than you or I do. During 2013, Taylor was touring the superb Red album and growing up before our eyes but 1989 was a step sideways, imagine if she had married one of the guys she fadded with in Red. What would 1989 have become then?”Welcome To Rhode Island”? “Welcome To Romantic Bliss”?

But she didn’t marry and by embracing her freedom, Taylor managed to become a fully formed adult whose pursuit of hedonism in the Big Apple lead her to a retreat into freedom and escape, yes retreat but not defeat. Last night (actually today) she took that freedom and made it the center of a glorious 20 minutes of power pop. This was pop music that swung for the rafters, Taylor pushed her voice and sang every song as though it was New Year’s Eve, which it was of course. And when her dancing exerted her enough to catch her breath, she let her backup singers, instead of backing tapes, take over.With a full band augmenting backing tracks and recorded beats the result was 20 minutes of way over the top glam, a delirious indomitable pop hit that reached back into her catalog no earlier than two years ago and proved she could trot out five immediate releases, three from 1989, two from Red and leave the audience needing no more.

Opening with “Welcome To New York” before telling us “New York City it’s good to be home. I’m Taylor, very good to see you tonight…” and a little later “I have so much love for New York City right now in this moment” , our newest homie couldn’t stop hugging us.Writers and composers have one thing in common: we like to complete patterns, and this night was a completion so precise it would be hard to make it up. The 24 year old wunderkind now ruled the pop world and was celebrating by singing and dancing her way to her silver birthday at the citadel of popular music performance, Madison Square Garden.No wonder she couldn’t stop smiling. It was like the closing of a chapter on the highest of high notes.

We couldn’t stop smiling either  and if we needed any more encouragement, Taylor reminded us she would be turning 25 in ten minutes and asked for our loudest screams… and got it. The introduction lead to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, a transitional EDM song with Max Martin and Shellack producing, and the song she used to close every night of the Red tour. The song was a huge palaver with a circus and a ringleader in 2013, it was nice to see it played somewhat straight, A great version and”Blank Space” was better.I wasn’t crazy about the version at the American Music Awards, I’d seen the video and just wanted to watch her sing it and instead she acted it out with various blank spaces. Well, this time she just sang it and it was wonderful, what a thrill to see the song performed live, a well sung, passionate interpretation with a twinkle in its eye.

I have reservations over “I Knew You Were Trouble”, the bridge isn’t quite shined through, but Taylor steamrolled right past my bleating, it was a powerful beauty, a smart as hell take while still only a place setter for the best song of the entire evening. I prefer “Blank Space” but this night “Shake It Off” beat it. “I think I’ve officially celebrated my birthday with you tonight”, Taylor said before the last song of the evening as the drummer kept a steady beat for her . “I’m 25 years old and there’s no place I’d rather be than on stage with you dancing around at my birthday”. Then the saxophone took over and the rest of the horns followed and Taylor sang and stopped and sang some more. It was a very happy moment.

Think of it, of all the things important in live music the suggestion of intimacy  between singer and audience is paramount. We want the privacy of the moment just between us and the artist and we got it and then some.This wasn’t just Taylor sharing her birthday, but also her first post-“Blank Space” performance in her adopted city,  and more? It was indeed the first concert she has performed in New York City since moving to the city and at the biggest pop music  show of the year.

“To the fella over there with the hella good hair won’t you come on over baby we could shake, shake, shake: it’s my birthday?” Taylor sang near the end of the evening.

Happy birthday kid, escapism becomes you.

Grade: A

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