Multi-award winner and Multi-Guinness World Record holder, Taylor Swift gave an astounding performance in a colossal stage flanked by six towering cranes during the New Zealand leg of her Reputation World Tour.
Opening the much-anticipated Friday evening’s festivities, British singer-songerwriter Charlie XCX didn’t let the drizzle hinder her. If anything, the misty rain made her black vinyl crop top and culottes look their glossy best as she enthralled the crowd of denim cut-offs, sequinned tops and unicorn horns with bangers like Dirty Sexy Money, Boys and Fancy.
Following suit were homegrown siblings Broods with Georgia Nott turning up the heat ever so slightly in a whimsical peachy pink, fluffy trimmed two piece as her brother Caleb bopped along in the background. Setting the mood with an oil slick-esque purple, pink and blue backdrop, Georgia’s raspy, ethereal voice filled the stadium with their 2016 hit, Hold The Line, followed by the new wave, post-punk number L.A.F. from their album Evergreen.
Further accentuating her unique timbre, Burning Bridges was a showstopper of sorts, with the rain falling harder for dramatic effect before Georgia was bathed in a dusky pink light as a synthy start signalled the beginning of the very sway-worthy We Had Everything. Closing off their set with the audience just amped enough for Miss Swift’s arrival, Broods treated the troops to a breathy rendition of Heartlines complete with mesmerising on-screen hot pink topography perfectly punctuated with specks pulsating in electric blue - it was as though they were ‘mapping out’ the epic journey that was well on its way.
Buying T-Swizzle a little more time, the audience was treated to footage of Taylor’s Secret Sessions in London, a little Taylor Swift Trivia for the hardcore swifties to really show off as well as behind-the-scenes footage of Taylor through the ages; aptly soundtracked to Tay’s country collab with Sugarland, Babe. But soon it was time for the much-anticipated main event.
It would’ve been a missed opportunity if Tay Tay didn’t open with her now signature question “are you ready for it?” and so it was that the stage split itself right down the centre screen to reveal amidst a haze of smoke, the silhouette of the evening’s biggest contender. In a cheeky sequinned jumpsuit and killer thigh high boots, Miss Swift kicked things off with the bassy number and shimmied coyly flanked by her terracotta warrior-esque dancers. Further firing us up, the saucy temptress ‘swiftly’ slinked into I Did Something Bad, offering the audience a chance to actually ‘feel the flames on (our) skin’ as the flame cannons fired overhead and fireworks lit up the sky with devilishly crimson streaks.
This would be Miss Swift’s seventh show in Auckland over the years but her first at Mount Smart Stadium and it was clear that she was grateful that her fans turned up in full force despite the damp conditions. She explained that there was something ‘rare, extraordinary and beautiful’ about rain shows, some might even say... Gorgeous. And gorgeousness sure did ensue on stage as Taylor was joined by her stunning slew of singers and dancers Jas, Maria, Gracie, Kamilah, Jaslyn, Melanie, Nadine, Stephanie and Joey for the bouncy tune.
Taking us back to 2014, next on the agenda was a little something that never did go out of Style. Clearly a crowd favourite, the stage seemed to have split laterally at some point to coolly reveal the band as the sandwich filling between the stage and screen - offering an interesting focal point without taking away from Miss Swift’s swaying hips. But just when you thought bad Tay was here to stay, Taylor took us in a time machine to simpler (and perhaps more innocent times) where a Love Story could still thrive, expertly smooshed with the heartstring-tugger You Belong With Me - and indeed, in that very moment, it is palpable that there’s no other place her fans would rather be; like the beating heart in the bottom left corner of the big screen, quietly but confidently content.
A fine indicator that more badassery was on the agenda, what seemed to be a snake-ship homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark appeared centre stage. And as Taylor emerged from the depths of the stage in a gold and navy sequined tux with matching boots, it was clear that the ringleader had ‘risen from the dead’ as she saucily sang the words to Look What You Made Me Do - undeniably enjoying herself as she did so, un-phased by the 16 feet tall inflatable cobra that decided to join her on stage. Slithery shenanigans with the Swift herself? Check.
Next, it was time for things to take a more romantic turn with the likes of End Game complete with perimeter screens appealing to the sportier types in the audience before the sensitive and synth-heavy King Of My Heart gave the lovers a fine excuse to cosy up and kiss in the rain.
It should come as no surprise then that things got a little pensive after that, with Taylor musing over when we go from being tantruming kids to creatures that care about our ‘reputation’ and how perhaps it’s the prospect of losing something real that sees us do whatever we need to to not let a bad reputation get in the way of what we want the most - connection. That’s a Delicate situation that provided the perfect excuse for Miss Swift to hop into her fairy-lit hanging platform to sing the Teen Choice Award winner while whizzing through the air.
Joined by Charlie XCX and Georgia from Broods, the feminist force was strong as they enticed the audience to Shake It Off before Taylor re-appeared in a green sequinned jacket (complete with serpents, dice and flowers) to match her green glitter guitar. All that was left to do then was spend a few moments, with just “me, you and my guitar”. Paying tribute to how this all began, pretty soon Miss Swift had her fans Dancing With Our Hands Tied before taking a moment to ruminate on how sometimes memories override other memories. Like the time the flashback that inspired Out Of the Woods was taken over by the recollection of recording the music video in the South Island.
Next on the playlist, taken from the Grammy Award Album Winner of the Year - 1989 - Tay Tay had the crowd swooning to Blank Space before taking a moment to thank everyone who made it possible for her and everyone on tour with her to continue doing what they love.
Switching gears and weirdly (but pleasingly) reminding us of the lead soundtrack in the late 90s Godzilla movie, Tay took an edgy Bad Blood and mashed it up with her 2006 country pop banger Should’ve Said No - perhaps a nod to the old and new Taylor? Tay Tay threw in a few abseiling dancers - Mission Impossible-styles perhaps to show that throughout our lives we dip in and out of both; the old and the new - on stage for good measure.
Swapping guitars for a xylophone, Miss Swift seemed to indulge her dark side with Don’t Blame Me, with the big screens framing her as though she were stained glass. Before a gospel-esque chorus seemed to further underscore that the high priestess herself was unapologetically in session and sent to speak her truth.
Evidently brimming with gratitude, especially once she sat down in front of her pretty piano, Miss Swift took a moment to acknowledge the soon-to-be end of her year long tour and the feelings associated with that. Seemingly choking back tears, her pastel blue painted nails danced along the keys as her face spoke only of the pure contentment this artist felt in that very moment as she aptly sang the words to New Year’s Day. She stopped at one point, almost as though she couldn’t resist, to simply tell her fans just how much she loved them before continuing.
Soon it was time to hop into that Getaway Car before Call(ing) It What You Want (spliced with the feisty We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together). And as a multi-tiered fountain appeared on stage for Tay and her dancers to spin and shimmy around, confetti filled the stadium, with each piece made to look like newsprint - akin to floating pieces of the Taylor tribune that would spread far and wide like the inspiring message of her stadium tour: that your reputation should never be allowed to rule the roost.
Ending the epic evening with This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, it’s fair to say there was no shortage of nice things on offer with Miss Swift… but despite her rousing reputation for rain shows and impressive showmanship, perhaps what was incontestable (and refreshing for an artist of this calibre) was the glaring effortlessness of someone who not only still loves what they do but chooses to do so dictated by their own rules; unwittingly inspiring the rest of us to do the same.