Arts & Culture

Review: Taylor Swift at AT&T Stadium

Taylor Swift brought her “1989” World Tour to AT&T Stadium for a sold-out show Oct. 17, 2015.
Taylor Swift brought her “1989” World Tour to AT&T Stadium for a sold-out show Oct. 17, 2015. Special to DFW.com

At this point, griping about Taylor Swift’s popularity, or her music, or her ability to sell out a venue the size of AT&T Stadium three times over is like complaining about the Sahara Desert being hot and dry.

It is what it is, nothing in the foreseeable future is going to change it, therefore it’s best to just appreciate it for what it is and is not, and move on.

The 25-year-old multi-platinum pop juggernaut returned to North Texas Saturday, bringing the latest stop on her “1989 World Tour” to AT&T Stadium, which she has now played (and filled to capacity) three times. Saturday’s stop was her first in two years, but her third overall in less than four years.

Each trip through town has found her to be more surefooted, more capable of handling the myriad pressures placed upon a show of such scale and more smoothly integrating the various bits of fan business her rabid followers expect.

The 60,000 souls spilling into the stadium Saturday — mostly an army of young girls, accompanied by patient fathers and mothers, many clad in homemade shirts, clutching signs and decked out in all manner of Swiftian ephemera — were ferociously loud from the moment Swift materialized on the vast stage, the strains of Welcome to New York pulsing beneath the cascading screams.

Swift was not alone on the stage — she was flanked by more than a dozen dancers, and somewhere beneath the mammoth video screens, a seven-piece band was tucked away — but she might as well have been.

She was the unquestioned locus of attention throughout the evening, her every move eliciting visceral reaction. And rather than simply stopping to gape and cast her eyes about the room, as she’s done previously, Swift took in the adoration and got on with the show. She moved from guitar to piano throughout the night, in seemingly quite strong voice, and generally made entertaining a massive stadium seem as easy as tying her shoe.

Swift’s maturity manifested itself in other ways as well.

Her concert was remarkably cohesive, in part because she focused so intensely on her latest album, 1989 (11 of the night’s 16 songs were taken from the record), but also did a fine job retooling previous hits like Love Story and I Knew You Were Trouble to fit the retro-futuristic sounds of 1989. (That some of the formerly country-pop songs so easily shifted genres only underscored what a farce her time as a country artist was.)

Swift has also figured out how to accept the role of generational spokesperson, weaving in lengthy monologues about self-worth, the value of being cool and also, subtly, her evolving role as the matriarch of Taylor Nation: “The coolest thing about being on tour in 2015 ... is I can check up on you, seeing how you’re doing,” she remarked at one point.

Hearing someone with as much youthful sway as Swift say something like “You are not the opinion of someone who doesn’t know you” or “What’s better than being cool is being happy,” and seeing it resonate with the scads of young, impressionable girls gazing adoringly at Swift is a powerful thing.

While a lot of the pop stars vying for attention are more concerned with throwing shade than offering advice, Swift sets herself apart, simply by speaking in a relatable way about the pitfalls and possibilities of life in the digital age.

Such human moments helped ground the outsized spectacle — it’s worth noting at least one of the monologues was delivered as Swift was being cantilevered out over the crowd, on part of the stage’s runway that detached and lifted her several feet in the air — and helped bolster her overall performance.

That an arena show could withstand so many competing interests — teenage guru, pop dynamo, songstress, brand maintenance — is impressive. (Swift even shoehorned in a celebrity cameo: Ellie Goulding turned up to sing her smash hit Love Me Like You Do.)

Swift hasn’t really edged into the innovative territory staked out by the likes of Beyonce — most of Saturday’s gimmicks (aerial dancers, fireworks, LED bracelets lighting up in time with the music) have been employed elsewhere. But perhaps, creative staging and execution will come in time.

Not that anyone in attendance was expecting much beyond an opportunity to spend time in a room with one of the most famous women on the planet. The chance, for an evening, anyway, to be a member of her fabled “squad,” many of whom enjoyed brief cameos in interstitial videos — Lena Dunham, Haim, Cara Delevigne and Karlie Kloss, among others, offering their thoughts on all that is Taylor.

All of it added up to one thing: the apex of pop spectacle in 2015. Spendy, slick fan service, fueled by near-sensory overload and songs you couldn’t escape if you tried.

So, bad news, haters: Taylor Swift’s here to stay. No sense in trying to fight it — shake it off and start singing along.

Preston Jones: 817-390-7713, @prestonjones

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