Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour landed in Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium on October 25th, the second date of the Australian and New Zealand leg of her tour. This tour marks Swift’s reappearance into the spotlight following a well-deserved career hiatus since 2015. Her sixth studio album, Reputation, was released in November of last year. Reputation was released without the flurry of press Swift normally partakes in. She instead disappeared from social media, did not participate in interviews, conducted Secret Sessions where her biggest fans were handpicked by Swift herself to hear her new album before it was released, and remained silent in the public, letting her new music speak for itself.
Reputation is an album unlike anything Swift has created before; it’s a perfect storm of anger, vulnerability, and an unapologetic attitude. So it was only natural that her tour reflected this.
Full disclosure: this review is totally biased because I am a die-hard Swiftie. I have been to every tour Taylor Swift has taken to Melbourne since 2013. I’ve grown up with her, her music has been the soundtrack to my childhood, teenage years, and my current adulthood. She’s a constant source of inspiration and a beacon of light for me. I had big expectations for the reputation Tour – and they were exceeded.
The show opened with Broods, a New Zealand indie pop duo. Being the first opening act is a tough gig – but was arguably harder for Broods. Their music is still largely unknown by the mainstream public in Australia. This tour is their first time performing in a stadium. And their music is not the same brand of catchy pop Swift and fellow opener Charli XCX produce. Broods’ songs are layered, vibrant, and full of heart – but they are not really songs which get stuck in your head, or you find yourself singing along to. I was only familiar with their song Peach prior to their performance. Unfortunately, I left the show still knowing only this one song. Whilst Peach is a total bop, none of the other songs they performed were memorable for me. It was evident that Georgia, the lead singer of Broods, was still finding her feet performing in the large space, however her energy and enthusiasm was undeniably infectious. Also her peach coloured hair and blue eye shadow was what dreams are made of.
Charli XCX followed Broods’ performance – and was a complete stand out. I had never seen her perform live before, and was blown away. I’m a total Charli XCX convert now. I had no idea just how many great songs she had in her repertoire. From Fancy, to Break The Rules, Boys, Dirty Sexy Money, I Love It – each song seemed to be better than the next. She had people up and dancing, and was an amazing hype woman for Swift. Her speech about girl power mid-way through her set really spoke to me, and set the tone for Swift’s entire show. The only lull in Charli XCX’s set was her song Unlock It, which I did not know and neither did anyone else around me – but she still performed the hell out of it. She’s a true pop sensation and a lively performer.
The reputation Tour is an intimate, bombastic, lightning bolt of a show. Swift shifts seamlessly from fast paced dance numbers, to heart felt acoustic songs, then passionate ballads. The people sitting around me sang almost every word to every song and everyone was up on their feet, dancing, screaming, and clapping throughout the entire show.
Before Swift arrived on stage, playing on the massive LED screens on stage was a compilation of things the media have said about her. I found myself overwhelmed by it all, within a second I was welling up. Hearing so many negative, judgemental things said about one person over and over was a lot, and it was only a small glimpse into the stratosphere of fame that Swift inhabits. This look into the damaging public opinion she is subjected to day in and day out makes it clear that she has something to prove. And prove it she does.
Swift managed to make Marvel Stadium feel intimate. I was surrounded by 63,000 people, but still felt as though she was singing just to me. She played to every part of the stadium, flying over the crowd in a constellation cage during Delicate, and a snake skeleton during Bad Blood/Should Have Said No, and playing at 2 separate B-stages. She even ran through the crowd, giving high fives, posing for quick mid-walk selfies, and squeezing hands. As I watched her make her way past these crowds, I was struck by her effort to run back to people on the opposite side she may have missed. She tried hard to make every person feel special. Her desire to connect with fans outweighs her own fears. Swift stopped entering crowds following a sexual assault in 2013. During her very public trial in 2017, in which she was famously awarded a symbolic $1 in damages, it was elucidated that Swift and her team were scared for Swift’s personal safety following the assault. So for Swift to run through the Melbourne crowd as joyously as she did, is a big thing.
Swift sang every song from reputation, save for So It Goes, a deep B-side which played through the stadium speakers after the show ended. Her performance of I Did Something Bad was particularly powerful. I felt a surge of electricity among the crowd when she sang the line, “if a man talks sh*t then I owe him nothing”, a lyric which has become beloved by Swifties globally. Swift’s costumes and set reflected the aesthetic of her album. Everything was dark, she wears a black body suit, a dark green jacket, a black dress, but there are still sequins and sparkles amongst them all. Because after all, the old Taylor may be dead, but the new Taylor still loves herself some glitter.
Do you remember when Kim Kardashian called Swift a snake, and unleashed an army of trolls on Swift’s Instagram page, commenting snake emojis? Well Swift takes control of that narrative during her show, leaning into the whole snake thing. Snakes rise during performances of Look What You Made Me Do and Shake It Off. Videos of snake skin slither across the screens. She even flies across the stadium in a freaking snake skeleton!
The number of hits Swift has had is exponential. She weaved in many tracks which are fan favourites, Love Story, You Belong With Me, Long Live, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, Blank Space, Style and Should Have Said No. It’s a testament to Swift’s talent that there are over 20 other songs she could have included in her setlist that the whole audience would known inside and out.
The most intimate moments of the night were when Swift was alone on stage with just her instrument. Standing in front of the huge crowd, her magic lies in her ability to make everyone feel like she is singing just to them. In particular, her performance of the mashup of New Years Day and Long Live felt incredibly personal and had me all teary. Swift’s speech about her appreciation for the fans that have stood by her and allowed her to evolve as an artist and a person, felt like it was directed just at me. Before launching into Long Live, a song about legacy, and remembering the important moments in life, she said “for me, this song has always been about you (the fans)”, cue every Swiftie balling their eyes out.
Perhaps the most suspenseful moment of the night was before Swift performed her surprise song on the B-stage. Each night of tour, Swift chooses a different song from her back catalogue to perform acoustically. She scours social media to see what the fans want to hear. I had seen many fan accounts on Twitter and Tumblr requesting I’m Only Me When I’m With You, a very deep b-side from her debut album, and a song she wrote when she was 13. But I never in a million years thought she would actually perform it. And then, before my very eyes, she announced it.
These surprise songs are gifts to the die-hard Swifties like me, those who have loved her music for as long as they can remember. International fans stay up late to see what surprise song she will perform next on tour, and I remember scrolling through Twitter after the concert to see hundreds of Swifties from all around the world getting excited about the performance of I’m Only Me When I’m With You. I can’t think of any other artist past or present that has that kind of instant love.
On the train ride home, my carriage was filled with fellow Swifties, who sang Swift’s hits all the way to my stop. Even hours after her show, people were still buzzing, singing and dancing. If that’s not a sign of a truly incredible concert, I don’t know what is.
Catch Taylor Swift at one of her remaining Australian or New Zealand shows.