Let’s flashback for a moment, back to January. I check my phone and see the announcement for the 1989 World Tour. My jaw drops solely because of two words: Levi Stadium. I think, “there’s no way. Wow. Is her career even big enough to be able to do that?” Within minutes of the tickets going on sale, the show sells out. A second one is added shortly after (which is the one that I ended up attending). I could only ponder one thought, a thought that was probably on the minds of every other teenager and twenty-something that had purchased tickets, or was going to have to resort to the dark corners of the Internet that I refer to as Stubhub and Craigslist: this could very well be the biggest tour of the entire year. The verdict? While we’ve still got a few more months of 2015 to go, I truly believe that my original sentiment rings true. 2015 is the year of 1989.
The show kicked off at 7:00 with one of my most anticipated acts of the next year, Shawn Mendes. The seventeen-year-old singer-songwriter, armed only with an acoustic guitar, microphone, and what looked like a coffee thermos probably filled with tea, I was very surprised to see how many in attendance KNEW all of his songs. People were still trickling in, so while the stadium wasn’t entirely full, I have to say that the energy was at a level I wasn’t quite expecting. Mendes seemed a little nervous, but hell, who wouldn’t be when standing in front of a stadium that is gradually filling itself up with droves of people? The standout track of his set was “Something Big”.
Vance Joy took the stage within the following half hour. Joy is another acoustic singer-songwriter, but one that is backed by a full band. His set was beautifully played. Joy’s charisma was rather upbeat for the type of toned down songs that he performed during the half-hour set. At this point, nearly the entire arena was filled, so I’d say that he definitely had the bigger, perhaps more intimidating, spot on the bill. Standout tracks were “Georgia”, a gorgeous love song that he reminisced about writing two years ago on New Years Day, and his hit single “Riptide”.
The sun has set, videos of Ms. Swift fill the football-stadium-sized video screens, talking about the making of her music videos and the inception of the 1989 tour. A Calvin Harris track blares throughout the arena, when suddenly, the lights go out. The moment that the Bay Area has been waiting eight months for is finally upon them. The curtain in front of the stage drops.
You can hear the sounds of a synthesizer warming up. Without warning, the stage lights flash. A massive group of dancers rise up from below the stage, but they’re concealing something. It’s almost as if they’re hiding someone…
There she is. “Welcome To New York” begins, while FIFTY THOUSAND light-up bracelets (given to each fan at the beginning of the show) turn on, perfectly in sync with the song, and Taylor Swift makes it known that she is in the building. It’s a combination of a cinematic moment and a trip to outer space. I’ve never experienced a concert like this before; a concert in a venue of this nature where everyone is contributing to the outcome of the show. The show continues with a beautifully executed 1989 bonus track, “New Romantics”.
Now, for this next song… I’d actually pictured this particular moment for months leading up to the show. On the side, I’m a DJ. I played a sorority gig back in March, and “Blank Space” was the most requested track. I got a musical high just playing it to a group of 500 people and hearing them scream every word. Hearing the words “Oh my god/look at that face/ you look like/my next mistake” by fifty thousand people is indescribable, and I wasn’t even the one performing.
There are several moments in the show where we take a trip back down memory lane. The fourth song in the set was a powerful rendition of “I Knew You Were Trouble” from her album, Red, complete with CO2 cannons to accent each chorus. A special moment came when Swift performed an acoustic version of “Should’ve Said No”, a song from her very first album. “I wrote this when I was fourteen,” she remarks with a smile as the stage riser in the middle of the stadium rises up to the level of those who purchased tickets in the bleachers. Swift also performed a piano-synth rendition of “Love Story”. The most effective track performed from the pre-1989 era was the rock version of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. Swift, armed with an electric guitar, standing front and center in the middle of the stadium, could have probably given any modern “rock” act of the last year a run for their money with this performance.
The most monumental surprise of the night came in the form of her special guest, an aspect of Swift’s current tour that has been occurring during each performance. “This dress actually isn’t mine,” she says, as I suddenly realize who the surprise guest is. “I borrowed it from a friend backstage.” Pop quintet Fifth Harmony (whose show we covered earlier this week when the Reflection tour came through San Jose) OWNED the stadium. Swift pulled back and let the girls do what they do best, as they performed their hit single “Worth It” for the crowd.
The show closed with the most energetic performance of “Shake It Off” I’ve seen thus far. You can have all of the YouTube covers in the world, but no one does it better than Taylor Swift. The stadium fills with confetti and cheers as the fan’s bracelets twinkle blue, green and purple, bringing an end to one of the most anticipated and highly sought out shows of the year.
Levi Stadium is located right next to California’s Great America, a theme park here in Santa Clara. Right before her performance of “Should’ve Said No”, loud booms could be heard outside the stadium walls. She turns around, puzzled. “Are those fireworks?” Swift laughs, motioning towards the fireworks that are going on at the adjacent theme park. “I swear I didn’t plan that!” She performs the song high atop the stadium. As the song closes, the fireworks finale hits, sparks cascading down against the backdrop of the night sky, while everyone, including Swift, smiles in surprise. If that isn’t serendipity, then I don’t know what is.
I’d like to give a huge thank you to Tree Paine at Premium PR, and Dana Lobb at 13 Management. Without their help, I couldn’t have made this a possibility. You two are some of the best in the business, and thank you for the tickets to such a wonderful show.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.