BY: ALYSSA BARDOL
LOUISVILLE, KY —- “And in the death of her reputation, she felt truly alive.”
Taylor Swift said it best herself: she is gleaming in her artistic prime with a stadium tour to attest to it. The “reputation Stadium Tour,” titled after her last studio release, has been as triumphant as the album release. The 45-date tour is projected to bring in over half a billion dollars, putting it in the top three highest grossing tours of all time alongside U2’s “360 Tour” and The Rolling Stones’ “A Bigger Bang Tour.”
The profitability of the tour can be chalked up to genius marketing, co-branding with Instax and Diet Coke, but most of all, the fans. Even with an excessive heat advisory issued by the National Weather Service, fans came out in droves to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Saturday night. The courteous venue staff set up large fans around the concourse and offered free cups of ice to patrons who devotedly braved the heat to see their favorite artist live.
While the doors open at 5 PM, as I drove into Louisville from St. Louis around 2 PM yesterday, the city was buzzing: restaurants nearby were packed and had hour long waits, Boy Scouts stood out and sold parking as donations to their dens, and fans lined the blocks surrounding the venue to buy the snake-covered tour merchandise outside.
The same energy was taken through the gates of the stadium as soon as security had began wanding and doing their pre-show bag searches. This tour, in particular from others, feels safe due to the NFL stadium Clear Bag Rule. Patrons’ bags must be clear and no larger than 12x6x12, making security checks and lines quick and relatively painless.
Running a little bit late, the show began around 7:15 PM when the British pop-singer Charli XCX took the stage. After seeing videos of her trying to hype up crowds at MELT Festival in Germany, I had my doubts that she would be as charming as she was, but she had no problem putting a smile on the crowd’s face with songs like “Boys,” “I Don’t Care (I Love It),” and “Fancy.” When her 30 minute set came to a close, the energy she’d created in the room by bopping around the stage and engaging with fans did everything but die off.
Next up was Camila Cabello. Fresh off of her first, completely sold out headlining tour that ended in May, the former-Fifth Harmony singer has spent the last year and a half making herself a household name with hits like “Bad Things” with Machine Gun Kelly, “Havana,” and “Never Be The Same.” Her set is a watered down, 40-minute version of her set on her previous headlining tour, including epic visuals like a 30 second countdown prior to her hitting the stage that sends the crowd into disarray.
Unique from any other artist I have seen open on a tour of this stature, Cabello’s set tells a story: a story of love, lust, and heartbreak. From prancing around the stage to girl-power-anthem “She Loves Control,” to a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” to an intimate moment at her keyboard with “Consequences,” Cabello’s set left fans wanting more of her — which they are sure to get in coming years, as by sales, work ethic, and her current success rate, she can seemingly do no wrong.
The 30-minute gap between Cabello and Swift’s sets acted as a buffer for fans to flock to concessions to rehydrate as Swift’s preshow playlist glared through the stadium. Concession lines stretched across the concourse, making it nearly impossible to walk through the crowds. After seeing several fans on the floor faint due to the heat, this was a refreshing sight to see. The playlist features songs like Mariah Carey’s “Obsessed” and ends with Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” as the last song prior to Swift’s entrance to the stage. The crowd surged with excitement as they danced and sang along to Joan Jett, a fitting prelude to Swift’s upcoming performance.
The song ended and the fan frenzy began as the stage lights dimmed, the screens on the 110 ft. tall stage flashing clips of Swift as clips of various reporters gossip about her echo through the stadium, a clear “screw you” to invasive media who have tried to rule over Swift’s career for the entirety of her career.
This “screw you” is the theme of the entire tour: to the media who said Taylor Swift would be done for, wasn’t doing enough, wasn’t mastering her craft to the fullest, look what you made her do.
Not only is Swift showing the world that she’s back and better than ever, but clearly embracing the villainous guise created by media, past relationships, and celebrity feuds. The snakes, reference to a past feud with Kim Kardashian regarding Swift’s alleged deceitfulness, were everywhere. They are coiled around microphones, parts of costumes, and even appear as immaculately statured (and somewhat comical) inflatables.
However, this villainous persona softens throughout the show when Swift revives the “Old Taylor” for songs like “Style”/”Love Story”/”You Belong With Me.” While the tour plays heavily on Swift’s last studio release reputation, she respects her roots and travels through her career from a teen popstar to being written about in history books onstage in an absolute spectacle.
Soaring through the audience in a cage draped in lights, Swift traveled by air to her B-stages, located roughly at the 50 yard line of the stadium. It is here where Charli XCX and Camila Cabello rejoin Swift onstage for a playful rendition of “Shake It Off.” It is not often that all artists on the ticket perform together, and these three women, with their incredible talent and artistry, work so well together.
Through the rest of the show, Swift plays on all three stages, offering an acoustic rendition of “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” and power-pop back on the main stage through the rest of the night.
All in all, Taylor Swift is, to put it bluntly, untouchable. After experiencing the live show, it is hard to imagine that Taylor Swift could ever be more in her artistic prime than she is right now. With the release of reputation, Swift seems to have freed herself and let go of any outside restrictions there may have been upon her, launching herself into a world of being the pioneer of pop music to come. With 10 Grammys and a multitude of multiplatinum albums, Swift’s 13-year career has already served her well — and with how things are looking, there’s absolutely no stopping her.
Photos © Alyssa Bardol Photography
“…Ready For It?”
“I Did Something Bad”
“Style”/”Love Story”/”You Belong With Me”
“Look What You Made Me Do”
“King of My Heart”
“Shake It Off”
“Dancing With Our Hands Tied”
“All Too Well”
“Bad Blood”/ “Should’ve Said No”
“Don’t Blame Me”
“Long Live”/ “New Year’s Day”
“Call It What You Want”
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”/”This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”