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Taylor Swift’s “The Era Tour” Reaches MetLife Arena, May 28th, 2023, Reviewed

The new from the Midnights Vaults “You’re Losing Me” is possibly the best song on the album because THIS ONE is a diary shredded with tears as she looks back on her relationship with her paramore for six years, Joe Alwyn. “Stop you’re losing me, my heart won’t start anymore.” Taylor had written at least one album for Joe, Lover, and any number of songs culminating with this sad, sad farewell. This isn’t almost true, it isn’t almost hiding anywhere, it is in your face break-up (plus we now know Taylor dropped Joe and we have a fair idea as why as she, essentially, had it with him… for Matt Healy??) Be that is it may, it lifts the curtained bewilderment of Swift’s well documented love life and finds nothing underneath.

Two days later and it is a Taylor Swift world, surrounded by female Swifies (9:1 female fershure), of all nationalities and everywhere, the roar of anticipation had been thundering across MetLife since I got here at 5:45pm, and didn’t really relent till the concert, and then it relented because, well, it wasn’t living up to the hype. Yes, the screamed, and at times Jingle Ball loud squealing, but because of its very concept it ebbs and flows and at its worse simply ebbs. There was a mistake in the formating of the setlist, two and a half hours in she ransacks folklore and stops being interesting for nearly half an hour. “The 1” is a great song, very well performed and “Betty” written about her Grandmother who used to be an opera singer (“I know she’d have loved to see me at MetLife” Tay claimed. Apparently, the late Betty was looking down on her, as were a lot of us), not as good as the original while nothing else off the album is worth your while here.

The commute was a major pain, I left home at 3pm and arrived at 545pm and it took everything I had not to just go back in the bus to Port Authority. The merchandize line almost circled MetLife with young and fresh girls and the female side of the family represented for, if not eras, surely generations, by the time I got there they didn’t have anything in my size. Opening the evening was Owenn, one of her dancers who is studying out as an r&b singer and was credible. On the other hand, Phoebe Bridgers? The most overrated singer-songwriter in the world, and apparently Taylor considers her a best buddy, nearly in tears as they said goodbye on Bridgers last night on the tour. Phoebe has one great song and she opened with it, “Motion Sickness”, written for Ryan Adams and if she had an ounce of sense she’d have let Ryan vet more of her work (she dismisses it with a snide “old men”). She ended with a song that didn’t impress me at first “I Know The End” but does now. With a full indie rock band and a gifted horn player she was exactly what she was the last time I saw her, and a little better.

“Eras” was a great idea, songs taken from her albums as a different era of her life, and four albums performed live, folklore, evermore, a Taylor’s version, and Midnights, for the first time. It begins with a Barbie Doll pink Lover songs and slowly changes hue to the lush greenness of folklore and Autumn browns of evermore; clearly a lot of work and a lot of money went into it, and still…

The opening was magnificent, Taylor emerges from a billow of pink clouds with “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” as she settled into her set proper. I really underestimated Lover, and it was wonderful to hear true Swiftian lore like the title track and, god knows, “The Man”. “The Man” is both a put down of the fetishing of testosterone and a hard embrace of sex reversal. A great song. The six songs off Lover were excellent, it was early, we were wide awake, and it was thrilling the way Tay can be. The same, maybe more, can be said for the way too short Fearless era, the title track, “You Belong With Me” and Love Story” were responded to so thoroughly I thought the audience were gonna bring MetLife down around my ears. The eleven year old girl behind me (by which I mean she was in THE LAST ROW of the stadium) sang along to “You Belong To Me” at the top of her longs and building to “she’s a cheerleader and I’m in the bleachers” -and guess what? How many more girls are sitting in the bleachers and not on the field? The girl in front of me filmed herself singing along to “Love Story” with tears pouring down her face. “Love Story” is Taylor’s only timeless classic, not her only great song but her greatest song: the response was everything Swift could have hoped from her Swifties. The upper deck shook from the response, the last time I saw an audience react like this was also Taylor when she turned 25 on stage at MSG 2011. Fantastic I’d give it an enforced thumbs up, magical. But we were forty minutes into a three and a half hour production. What next?

Evermore showed us the heart of the momentum. “Willow” was better than I remembered but nothing else was and the way she milked the applause after “Champagne Problems” was insanely unnecessary. In 2012 I reviewed Taylor at MSG (here) and wrote this about the audience response: “Standing on a platform in the middle of the Arena, Taylor Swift looked genuinely amazed. A young girl in the cheap seats randomly began to chant “Taylor, Taylor” and slowly but surely 14,000 young girls joined in, as if Swift was Derek Jeter and she had just hit a home run and won the game. This wasn’t part of the plan. Swift has been doing this for years now, getting the response she wants at the moment she wants it, she knows where the cheers should coax and how to coax them out: stopping dead in the middle of a song, staring out at the seats her eyes wide like saucer, or just a smile projected on the screens surrounding her. But tonight’s spontaneous outburst has taken Swift by surprise and it takes her a moment to regroup…” That can’t even compare with the prolonged bullshit of “Champagne Problems”.

reputation was better than I remembered it being (and the girls loved it) in 2018 (here), the problems with a stadium remained, and too much reputation didn’t help but it was good, and while the reputation era isn’t as good as, say, Lover, it is good enough (here). And then it is more or less boring, Red is one of my favorite albums and tours, but the ten minute “All Too Well” is a complete act of tedium and sinks that era without a trace. folklore is a tremendous drag on the proceedings performed two hours in we were exhausted by the time it arrived. By the time 1989 arrived even back to back “Blank Space” and “Shake It Off” (too loud and fast) can’t help and her two surprise songs, “Welcome To New York” and ‘Clean” were crazily stupid. On the reputation tour we got “Welcome To New York” and we really don’t need it, and we needed it less last night. What we needed was “Tears On My Guitar”, “Tim McGraw”, “Our Song” – all from her first album and all ignored so we could suffer through “illicit affairs” and her Matty song (who knew) “Cardigan”.

Bringing up the rear and closing out the shows came her last album the good not great Midnights. well, maybe one great song “Anti-Hero”, which I listened before leaving a little early. But everybody was exhausted, the place went quieter (relatively, I mean), outside the Stadium Swifties who couldn’t get a ticket sangalong in the parking lot but the bus going back to the city was quiet.

Swift makes nine million dollars a show and if you consider all her huge expenses and taxes, figure she talks home $4M. Over 50 gigs on just the US leg, she is taking home $200M AFTER TAXES and she wants to pay for it by giving us a show longer than King Sunny Ade. Length doesn’t matter, Fire Engines used to perform twenty minute sets and they were better than this. On the new song, “You’re Losing Me”, she dubs herself a “pathological people pleaser” and that’s why she has a concert longer than an opera. But less can be less. Swift goes an hour past “get me out of here “and well into the worst time I’ve seen Taylor to date. Bruce Springsteen can fill Metlife with just a band behind him, no frills or chills or spills. Taylor could as well except she never listened to me. Bruce began at clubs along the Jersey Shoreline, Taylor has never even played a theatre and she needed to figure her stage persona before sticking this behemoth, raved about by every rock critic in the world, down our throats. She works too hard at it. I love her and have been writing about her for her since 2009, and this tried way too hard and ended up a crushing bore.

Grade: B

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