Taylor Swift is such a force that her post-quarantine Eras Tour was a sensation the moment tickets went on sale. Despite Swift playing the biggest venues possible for multiple days in each city, the wild demand has helped to make each stop national news, especially as they are documented in real time on social media. Livestreams dominate on TikTok, I-cant-believe-you-got-tickets posts rise to the top on Instagram, and the media cycle analyzes every change in Swifts setlist, as well her famous friends in attendance.
Beyond the hoopla, Swifts May 26 tristate show at East Rutherford, New Jerseys MetLife Stadium was a dazzling display of an artist at the height of her powers, able to elevate her success over her previously-set peaks. Swift paved the way to the Eras Tour via a wildly productive quarantine, when she recorded her sound-shifting trilogy of albums Folklore, Evermore, and Midnights. Those records broadened her appeal and won new fans, but her audience wondered how shed ever be able to properly tour that trio plus her previous album, Lover, the tour of which was canceled because of COVID-19.
Thus Eras was born, a setlist-busting tour through her catalogue, treating fans to over 40 songs each show. The three-and-a-half-hour plus NYC stop was nothing if not impressive, a clear message that Swift both loves her fans and material. (For non-local Swifties: MetLife is five miles outside Manhattan and is commonly known as the New York City stop for stadium acts. Even though its technically in New Jersey, the proximity is why the New York Giants and New York Jets play there.)
Between the tristate happening midway through the run and social media ubiquity, fans were feverish from the very beginning, letting out their first collective roar when hearing Lady Gagas Applause play over the PA, because they knew its the last song piped in before Swift takes the stage. From there, it was a constant eruption of screams, cries and singalongs that lasted the whole night, adoration at a level few artists could sustain.
Starting the set with a few deeper cuts from her Lover era, Swifts stage show is so complex that it brings up more questions than answers: How is she able to memorize so much choreography? What tea is she drinking to keep her voice from giving out? How is she changing outfits so quickly?
The genesis of these shows came from what Swift described at one point during the concert as a year-and-a-half-long process ideating the tour, from conceptual sketches to the finished product. Each chapter was a no-expenses-spared jaunt into Taylors mind, from the cozy forest home of Folklore to the glittery, fist-pumping anthems of Red, to the cool blues and purples that set the tone of the Midnights portion.
While the setlist has largely stayed the same for the duration of the tour, Swift smartly bakes in two surprise acoustic songs deep into the set, and at the first NYC show she brought out frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff for a rendition of Reputation fan favorite Getaway Car, and then took to the piano for a Midnights deep cut, Maroon.
Yet the nights biggest surprises were all about buzzy Bronx rapper Ice Spice, whose collaboration with Swift on the remix to Karma dropped earlier in the day. Before the surprise acoustic songs, Swift world premiered the video to the remix alongside her dancers, many of whom were featured in it. Swift also expressed her appreciation to the rapper, saying that as she prepared for the tour she was listening to pretty much exclusively just [Ice Spices] music every single day, all day.
For the nights last song, as some fans started trudging to the exits to beat traffic, a huge roar came again as the rapper dropped by to perform the remix with Taylor, creating a last-minute viral moment.
As the lights went up, the audience still enchanted by Swift, its difficult to think of anything more you could ask from a touring artist in 2023. The marathon run sounded great, was filled with both Swifts huge, hooky hits and deeper cuts, mixed keen musicianship with joyful choreo, and left the audience headed to their cars to queue their own favorite eras on Spotify. For a perfectionist like Swift, its a thrilling culmination of her art, vision and hard work.