I find it weird to admit that I’ve only recently become a fan of Taylor Swift. In fact, her most recent album Red was the first one I bought and listened to in its entirety. This experience left me wondering why I’d never listened to her properly before. Red was one of my favourite albums of 2012 and it prompted me to research Ms Swift’s back catalogue. Since then, I’ve listened to Fearless and Speak Now plenty of times and I can now safely say that Taylor is my favourite female solo artist. When I saw that she was bringing her Red tour to London, buying a ticket was a no brainer.
Slipping into my favourite red dress and painting my nails a bright scarlet, I arrived at the venue and took my seat. I became engrossed in the preliminary videos on the screens of the makings of various videos from Red singles We’re Never Ever Getting Back Together, 22 and I Knew You Were Trouble. Rather than playing general adverts and music videos, we were transported to Taylor’s world straightaway and I loved this touch as it just heightened my anticipation.
Stepping out of it for a little while, The Vamps took to the stage and played some energetic pop rock. Although I had heard of their name before, I hadn’t heard any of their music. They’re a young Birmingham quartet who definitely know how to get a crowd going. I’m usually a big fan of pop rock and pop-punk but something about their nasal vocals and tinny guitars didn’t really connect with me. I found their original songs to be a little too immature and as I was in a Taylor Swift place in my mind, it just wasn’t what I wanted to hear at the time. However, I did love their cover of The Killers’ Mr Brightside. When they first began to play it, I was a little nervous as it happens to be one of my favourite songs but I did really enjoy their version.
When it was finally time for Taylor to make her entrance, the crowd went wild as the opening riff of State Of Grace began playing. The lights shone a mysterious red and Taylor’s silhouette appeared on the curtains at the back of the anchor-shaped stage. When the curtain dropped, Taylor finished State of Grace and stood basking in the frenzy that she’d set The O2 into. The expression of wonder on her face showed her appreciation and she clearly lapped every ounce of love her fans gave her.
State Of Grace ran straight into Holy Ground and Red before Taylor addressed the crowd for the first time. I’ve never been to a gig where the artist has interacted with the crowd so much. Explaining her reasons and inspiration behind some of the songs really let us in and we learnt something about Taylor as a person. Something about the way that she speaks and the amount of confidence that her every word carries leaves you awestruck and you just want to spend time with her. Even though she’s speaking to thousands of people, you feel like she’s speaking directly to you and despite the setting, it feels so intimate. I’ve never seen an artist do this and it really was something special.
Veering away from Red, she serenaded us with oldie You Belong With Me flanked by glamorously dressed backing singers. The action then cut to a classic Hollywood setting for The Lucky One before going back to basics for a simple performance of Mean. Not many artists can sit on a stage with an acoustic guitar and captivate a venue the size of The O2 but Taylor certainly can with arguably her biggest “fuck you” song. Once everyone had had a scream about the haters in our life, the screens showed video clips from Taylor’s life -one for every year up until she was 22- before her latest single blasted through the arena. After the party with her dancers had died down, Taylor once more took up a guitar and treated us to one of her best feel-good songs Long Live. Still on a high, she treated us to another Speak Now love song Sparks Fly while being suspended on a small caged platform that swung gently across the centre of the arena before returning her to the stage.
It was at this point that Taylor announced that she had a surprise. After teasing us with some cryptic clues, she introduced Ellie Goulding on to the stage as the two launched into a duet of Ellie’s hit Burn. It was an explosive performance that certainly had the shock factor and took us higher than we thought possible from a Taylor Swift gig. The fiery passion carried over into I Knew You Were Trouble which featured strong dance moves, plenty of attitude and ferocity. The stark contrast of All Too Well which saw Taylor take to the piano with a toy cat perched on top as she belted out her heartbreaking ballad.
Taking another trip back in time, Love Story came with a beautiful fairytale theme. Stunning costumes and props really dragged every ounce of theatre from the song and I was delighted that she played one of my favourite classics. Winding things down, Taylor treated us to Treacherous which saw her walk along the steadily rising ramp at the centre of the stage in a cute tutu and bare feet. Saying her thank yous, she left the stage before returning in a ringmaster’s outfit and ending on We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. Confetti, drama and celebrations rang across the arena as Taylor left on a huge high along with everyone in the crowd.
As someone who is constantly talking about their love of indie and alternative rock bands, a love of Taylor Swift may seem a bit out of character for me but there’s something about her lyrics combined with her personality that sucks me in. Taylor isn’t considered a cool artist but she knows and embraces it. She’s the perfect role model and she makes you feel like it’s OK to be different. I definitely came away from the gig happy to be myself and desperate to be Taylor’s best friend.
*These are not my photos, of course!