Music: Taylor Swift "Speak Now World Tour" concert review
In Taylor Swift's lavish Nashville penthouse, there is a giant, human-sized birdcage, like something out of a "Sylvester & Tweety" cartoon. It's big enough to put a sofa in, big enough to play piano in, big enough to live in. The whole affair is a fitting visual metaphor, especially for someone as steeped in the tradition of country songwriting simile as Swift: she's a songbird inside a cage of her own design.
Taylor's "Speak Now World Tour" concert series is the logical extension of that cage. She had a hand in everything - the songs, the stage design, even the selection of the opening acts. In a very real sense, this is a look inside Swift's imagination (or at least what she wants you to think her imagination looks like).
My friend is a huge Taylor Swift fan, and, through some jockeying, we managed to get tickets to one of her sold-out concerts at the BankAtlantic Center in Fort Lauderdale. Here's what we saw and heard...
You know the screams that emanate from a roller coaster? Those high-pitched squeals of exhilaration? Multiply those by a hundredfold, put them on repeat, confine them within an arena, and you have an idea of what the crowd sounds like inside a Taylor Swift concert.
It's not just cheering or yelling, either. The mostly-female crowd belts out every word of Taylor's songs, making for an amazing spectacle. If you don't have a pair of earplugs handy during the choruses of Swift's hit singles, be prepared for some permanent hearing damage:
For the Speak Now Tour, Swift turned the BankAtlantic Center into her personal theatre, and it was easily one of the most ambitious concert setups I've ever seen. The center stage's giant red curtain and proscenium arch (emblazoned with Swift's initials) are just the tip of the iceberg - the show featured pyrotechnics, ballerinas, a harpist, a tap dancing street sweeper, Cirque du Soleil-style aerialists hanging from giant Gothic church bells (really), and more. While Taylor mostly stuck to this main stage, she also performed several songs in the rear of the arena on a giant, glowing, rotating fake tree, temporarily giving the fans in the cheap seats the best view in the house:
The setlist consisted mainly of cuts from Swift's newest album, "Speak Now." Like her idol, Shania Twain, Taylor regularly strays from the boundaries of country-pop (to the point of including a couple of rock-and-roll guitar solos in "Better Than Revenge"), so devotees of her older work might be a little adrift. Another disappointment was the sound mix; it was difficult to hear Swift singing over her band's instruments, not to mention all the screaming teenage girls.
Even with those caveats in mind, the Speak Now tour is an easy recommendation for anybody who loves elaborate productions. Regardless of whether you like her music, "T-Swizzle" serves up one heckuva show, and it'll be an interesting to see if she can top something like this....given her meteoric rise, I wouldn't bet against her.