Some artists need to be seen and not just heard. Taylor Swift is one of those artists. All-American sweetheart, six time Grammy winner and, who’d have known, stage goddess? The Speak Now World Tour Adelaide stop (her 100th, no less) was the 21 year old playing the role of the popstar she was born to be, and for this once non-fan, I was won over.
Opener ‘Sparks Fly’, complete with ceiling-bound acrobats spraying sparks over the stage (see what she did there?) was proof enough that the reserved Grammy and MTV Awards performances were firmly tucked away in the past. There was an urgency and grit to Swift that I’d so desperately wanted to see. When she sung ‘She thinks I'm psycho 'cause I like to rhyme her name with things’ in ‘Better Than Revenge’, we got to see a glimpse of that so-called psycho, while ‘Enchanted’ and ‘Haunted’ were elevated from their same-sounding album versions into energetic, Broadway-worthy performances.
The sheer theatricality of the show, the spitfire costume changes and Swift’s cheeky smile most definitely put her up on a Katy Perry or Britney Spears level. And when she sings almost flawlessly and plays the guitar, banjo and ukulele like such a seasoned professional (i.e. not strumming three chords and calling it a ‘song’), the success and accolades become all the more apparent.
And let’s not forget, Taylor Swift likes her stage props big and shiny, and her love ballads bittersweet. Taylor Lautner kiss-off ‘Back to December’ was one of the night’s highpoints, and the summation of a thousand fairytale fantasies come to life on stage. Swift played a white grand piano underneath a golden bridge, whilst glitter rained onto the stage and a string octet serended the crowd. Cheesy? Not at all. I think Swift’s love life is fitting of such grandeur. The bluesy ‘Dear John’ (one of two songs about John Mayer) and ‘Long Live’ were not without their charm, but nothing quite recaptured ‘December’s’ drama and intensity, though slotting in a mash-up of OneRepublic’s ‘Apologize’ and her own ‘You’re Not Sorry’ was right on the mark, just in case anyone thought ‘Back to December’ wasn’t sad enough.
‘I sing about relationships a lot’, Swift told the crowd, grinning. No, really?
‘Those are the times you need music the most’. She’s a girl of few words, but oft the right ones.
Employing use of a b-stage across the Adelaide Entertainment Centre made acoustic numbers ‘Fearless’ and ‘Last Kiss’ even more lush and intimate, while closing numbers ‘Fifteen’, ‘You Belong With Me’ and ‘Love Story’ were every bit the country pop sing-alongs they were made to be, and more.
With a show totally fitting of the whimsy and wonder of her songs, I was convinced. Speak Now definitely marks a shift in Swift, from shy teenage girl to fun and fearless young woman. If Kanye West tried to wrestle the microphone from her now, I’d bet good money that things would end differently.