Taylor Swift at the Xcel Energy Center, 6/14/11 and 6/15/11
The best spectacle of Tuesday night's Taylor Swift show at the Xcel was Swift performing "Love Story" standing on what looked like a floating balcony, suspended by wires and soaring like a UFO over fans' heads. But the emotional highlight was fan-love itself: the pure delight of the youngest sold-out-arena-crowd this reviewer has ever seen, and Swift's graceful way of playing to it.
For many, judging by the pre-show text messages posted on a jumbo screen, it was their first concert. And the way Swift designed the show, it could have also been their first ballet, Broadway musical, Vegas aerial acrobat performance, and indoor fireworks display. The overkill seemed meant to compensate for pacing rather than substance: Her fine new songs, which dominated the set, run on the long side, so even a show starting at 7:00 p.m. did battle with bedtime. Yet it's doubtful anyone left early without being carried, and in the end the scale felt something like generosity and can-I-top-this verve.
The high-pitched uni-scream you read about in Beatles books was higher here--imagine the Psycho strings on helium--and crept up at random intervals, not just for a favorite lyric but for a knowing look outward into the dark. ("I love you," she told the audience at least once.) Swift moves like a composed Pippi Longstocking glamming it up--she really could be "us" up there. And she did better than saying she owed it all to the fans, instead telling a story about writing a song backstage on tour while listening "to the crowd make this beautiful, magical, long screaming sound. [pause] That's the one!"
In the seats that cost more than a camera, there wasn't a fan without one, and many girls (they were mostly girls) grabbed falling paper snowflakes from the air like baseball fans reaching for fly balls at the World Series. Were they already savoring the moment as a memory? There's nothing odd about a 21-year-old singer performing "remember when" songs about being 16 if you're a 10-year-old already collecting a mental scrapbook of when you were a slightly younger 10-year-old four minutes ago.
But the vividness of Swift's performance went way beyond star power or stagecraft or even funny songs about following your heart. Opening acts Randy Montana and Needtobreathe were good--they rocked well, and even made you ponder a little bit about class and genre identity. ("We're not a country band," said the singer of Needtobreathe. "We're redneck, not country.") But Swift communed with the moment. She's one of most natural performers there is, and obliterates every other worry or hang-up once her band kicks into a song. Maybe that's why she never stops touring.
Taylor Swift (a.k.a. T-Swift, Swifty, T-Tay, Tay, and T-Swizzle) performed two sold-out nights, Tuesday and Wednesday, at the Xcel Energy Center.
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