Tampa, FL (April 13th, 2023)
Back in November of 2022 when Taylor Swift announced her Eras tour, which would be her first tour in five years, everyone knew this was going to be a huge deal. When tickets finally went on sale more than records were broken, it broke the internet as it crashed Ticketmaster’s website. It even caused congressional hearings because of controversial practices by the ticketing titan. In the blink of an eye the entire tour would be sold out. When extra dates were added to cope with demand they too were snatched up in an instant. Such is the love for Taylor Swift by her diehard fans the Swifties.
Fast forward to April thirteenth, and it’s the day seemingly the entire state of Florida and even points beyond had been waiting for. It was finally the opening date of a three day stand of the Eras tour at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay Florida. Roads and parking lots were packed early on as no one wanted to risk being late to this momentous event. One look at the crowd and you would see everything virtually every age range and even whole families in attendance. The stadium quickly became a sea of glitz and glitter as fans young and old came in decked out in costumes inspired by their favorite pop star.
Throughout the tour there would be two opening acts every night. Both would get a chance to impress what would have to be the biggest crowds they would ever play for in their careers. The first one up would be Taylor Gayle Rutherfurd, simply known as Gayle. She soared to the top of the charts on the strength of her first hit song “ABCDEFU” which also went viral on TikTok. For thirty minutes she performed a nice mix of material that showcased her power pop style nicely including the Alanis Morrisette hit “You Oughta Know”. She finished her performance with her hit song “ABCDEFU”.
Up next was Beabadoobee. With a scant thirty minutes to work with, Beatrice Kristi Ilejay Laus who is known as Beabadoobee got to show the crowd her stuff. Her pop-rock style added a nice bit of edge to the night as her music also has a bit of an indie feel to it as well. With an absolutely massive stage at their disposal her guitarist would make use of it frequently venturing away from the band. They opened with “10:36”. The song has an atmospheric feel to it. The jangly guitar work balances perfectly with Bea’s soft voice. Songs like “Apple Cider” and “See You Soon” are very much in the same vein. It was great to see a young band with an indie flair get a chance to expose their music to new fans on such a major level.
With eight o’clock quickly approaching it was finally time for the expansive Era’s tour to begin. As Taylor has released four albums, Lover, Folklore, Evermore and recently Midnights since her last tour, there was a vast amount of material for her to choose from. So to help showcase all these albums as well as the rest of her impressive catalog the concept of the Era’s tour was born. The tour would feature an absolutely unheard of forty four song setlist that would be broken down into era’s or acts that would define her thus far seventeen year long career. Every era was a full blown homage to that point in time. From costumes to lighting to colors all of this and more was fully woven into the DNA of each act. This would be no concert put together by mere mortals, this would be an extravaganza that only the biggest pop star this planet has ever seen could pull off.
When the clock emblazoned on the giant video screen that is part of the main stage ticked down to zero the near seventy thousand souls that were packed into the stadium erupted as one in cheers. As the curtain lifted her dancers glided out onto the stage wearing what could be best described as colorful parachutes. They made their way from the main stage across the walkway to the second stage, they all bowed down and as they lifted their parachutes back up there was Taylor, adorned in a Versace body suit. She kicked off the Lovers era with “Miss America & the Heartbreak Prince” which she turned into a medley with “Cruel Summer”. Swift strutted around the center stage delivering both songs with incredible passion and energy. When she stopped at center stage, a platform would raise her up as she continued her performance. As the song wound down, she was lowered down and she made her way back to the main stage and two of her dancers put a Versace blazer on her. The curtain was pulled back revealing a multi-level office building . She launched into “The Man”. With her dancers decked out in business attire they put on a Broadway worthy performance. Taylor worked her way to the top and was accompanied along the way by her dancers with her reaching the top level alone. Indeed the performance spoke to the heart of the song and its assessment of inequality and gender pay gap. The Lovers Era ended with “Lovers” and “The Archer”.
The next era was Fearless. She would take the audience back to when her career was just beginning to take off. For her older fans attending this was the moment that really touched them as they had discovered Taylor at a point when her songs echoed in the journey that they were on as well. The songs she chose for this era “Fearless”, “You Belong With Me”, and “Love Story” defined this era perfectly.
Her ninth album Nevermore would be the next stanza of the evening. She would launch into “Tis The Damned Season” to start things off. For “Champagne Problems” Taylor sat down in front of an aptly decorated grand piano. Before she started the song, she offered up what had to be the perfect apology. Earlier in the show she thanked the opener Gracie Abrams, who would be the opener on the next evening instead of Gayle who actually opened up the night. She started off saying that tonight was the thirteenth, as most of her fans know that is her lucky number , which caused everyone to cheer. She continued on saying that is also the number of brain cells she has. She went on to profusely apologize to Gayle in the most humble and gracious way possible. She went on to perform a heart wrenching rendition of the song. “The closing song to the era was “Tolerate It”. This was a masterclass in how simplicity can be so powerful. With just her and one dancer and a large dinner table, every ounce of emotion the song had was laid out for all to see.
The Reputation Era was up next. For many of her fans this was a delight as it brought back to them her last time in Tampa for the tour of the same name. The video screens came alive with the scales of a serpent. This would portend just how visually alive this era would be. “…Ready For It?” Was a full blown dance number featuring all her dancers at the main stage. Dressed in a black glittery body suit Taylor and her crew put on a devastating performance of the song that was amazing just to see. “Delicate”, “Don’t Blame Me” and “Look What You Made Me Do” were also featured as well.
The Red Era had near seventy thousand voices in unison singing along as she performed “We Are Never Ever getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were trouble”. Dressed in an aptly colored red sequined gown and holding a red acoustic guitar, she stood alone in the center of the middle stage and asked the audience if they had ten minutes to spare, which of course they cheered her on. She played a beautiful rendition of “All Too Well”. During the song confetti rained down on the crowd. With just Taylor standing center stage and the wrist lights that were given to everyone lighting up the stadium it was easily one of the most beautiful and powerful moments of the night.
The Folklore segment of the night found Taylor back on the main stage and in a cabin. Taylor would relate to the audience that she used a different approach to writing this album. She said she thought it would be fun to create characters and story lines. They could live in different times and fall in love or go to war. She would pick out “The 1”, “Betty”, “The Last Great American Dynasty”, “August”, “Illicit Affairs”, “My Tears Ricochet”, and “Cardigan” to represent this era. Tonight she also debuted a new two piece green dress and asked the audience if they liked it, which of course elicited cheers.
It was now time to switch back from the more intimate Folklore era to the party atmosphere of 1989. It wouldn’t be a party without the massive hit, then again isn’t everyone of Ms. Swift’s songs a massive hit, “Shake It Off”. “Style”, “Blank Space”, “Wildest Dreams” and “Bad Blood” were also featured. For this era she had a new orange fringed skirt and halter top.
At this point in the show, she plays two surprise songs that are unique to each concert. She walked all the way out to the third stage, which is a tee that is connected to the middle stage by a walkway. Dressed in a yellow gown, she picked up an acoustic guitar and performed a lovely version of “Speak Now”. It was this song and the following one that showed that Taylor Swift is one of the precious few artists that have mastered the art of the stadium show. It’s one thing to put on an over the top show, but it is vastly more difficult to turn a crowd of nearly seventy thousand people into an intimate affair. The previous song and “Treacherous” which she performed on piano managed to do just that.
With the two surprise songs over it was now time to start the final Era. To do that Taylor stood up from her piano raised her arms into the air and swan dived right into an opening in the stage. As the whole walkway and all the stages are video screens themselves. They turned a light blue and showed Taylor swimming underneath the stage. As she reached the main stage she appeared back on stage in a new outfit and the Midnights era began. She started it off with “Lavender Haze” and went on to perform “Anti-Hero”, “Midnight Rain”, “Vigilante Shit”, “Bejeweled”, and “Mastermind”. When she was done she asked the crowd if they had time for one more song, which naturally caused everyone to cheer. The last song of the night was “Karma”. One that was indelibly clear was just how grateful Taylor was for everyone showing up and supporting her. There was no mistaking just how genuine her thank you’s and smile were. As the song ended fireworks erupted into the night bringing the wildly successful first of the Eras tour in Tampa to a close.
This was more than a mere concert or an event. The Eras tour is a once in a lifetime memory. Part ingénue, part singer, part entertainer, and part teenage girl baring her soul in her diary Taylor Swift has transcended the role of being the voice of her generation and is worthy of icon status with the biggest acts to ever grace any stage anywhere. For three and a half hours nearly seventy thousand people in the sold out Raymond James Stadium witnessed the well-earned lofty status that Taylor Swift achieved.
The Eras tour is a breathtaking affair and amazing achievement. It is exquisitely crafted in every fashion. From its grandiose size to the polish and precision of every aspect, it has truly earned all of the press it has garnered. Taylor Swift has set the bar impossibly high for any other act to even try to compare with her. If you are lucky enough to have ticket to this momentous show, you will bear witness to possibly the greatest pop star of all time at the height of her powers delivering knockout performance after knockout performance for a far longer amount of time than anyone could ever dare to think possible, well expect for Taylor Swift herself.
Raymond James Stadium: