Review | She’s a ‘mastermind’ — Swift’s near-perfect ‘Eras Tour’ cements her cultural legacy

By Ryleigh Lord, Culture Editor

When the first echoes of “it’s been a long time coming” sounds out across the stadium, the crowd at The Eras Tour is at its most feral — wound up, buzzing and ready to explode the moment Taylor Swift makes her way onto the stage. 

Swift knows this. In fact, she’s counting on her audience to sustain that energy for an almost incomprehensible three-and-a-half-hour show — this is her first tour in five years, and she’s at the third separate peak of her career. If anyone can command a stadium of almost 70,000 people for a concert longer than the runtime of Titanic, it’s Taylor Swift. 

When I arrived at Lincoln Financial Field on May 12 surrounded by — mostly —  young women in all colors of the rainbow, fringe dresses and cowboy boots, it was clear from the start that this was going to be an especially unique concert experience. 

Before making it through security, there were already groups trading friendship bracelets — a nod to “You’re On Your Own Kid,” off “Midnights” —  and the energy was consistently high throughout both Gayle and Phoebe Bridgers’ opening sets. The show runs on a tight schedule, and by 7:54 p.m., when the two-and-a-half minute countdown clock appeared on the big screen, I could actually feel the stadium risers shaking. 

The run-up to The Eras Tour has been almost as talked about as the show itself. The struggle to get tickets made its way to the United States Congress, set list and opener speculations sent fans into tizzies and outfit preparation began the very moment shows were announced. 

And still, each night of the tour further guarantees that Swift is leading a cultural moment in history that will be discussed and reminisced upon for years to come. 

Swift takes the audience on a “musical journey” throughout almost every “era” of her career, from the smooth synth-pop of “1989” to the softer alt-pop of “evermore.” For other artists, this musical whiplash might prove to be a nearly impossible feat for a crowd so large. 

It’s a testament to both Swift’s stage presence and the devotion of her fans that even during the slowest of songs towards the end of the concert  — like “My Tears Ricochet” off of “folklore” —  the audience is still 100 percent locked in. 

It’s obvious throughout the night that some albums are featured more prominently than others. Her debut album gets no recognition on the permanent set list, and “Speak Now” only has one song with verses cut out. 

This decision wouldn’t be so noticeable if Swift didn’t spend more time than needed on other eras. Though “1989” won a Grammy for Album of the Year, it’s not necessary to play almost every radio single on this tour. 

The show is chock-full of her most recognizable hits, which is to be expected for an “eras” tour, but the emphasis on her well-known songs does take a bit away from some of her lesser-known gems. It would have been satisfying to see a song like “Bad Blood” traded out for something like “I Wish You Would” or “I Know Places” from “1989.” 

The same can be said for some of the other eras as well. Noticeably, “Fearless” and “Red” were both rereleased within the last two years, but the “Fearless” set list doesn’t feature any new songs and “Red” still heavily focuses on the radio singles. 

An artist like Taylor Swift shines the most in songs that aren’t “single-material,” and The Eras Tour would have been a perfect opportunity to showcase them. 

The show is a well-oiled machine from start to finish, with little room for more than one or two moments of famed Swiftian monologues at the piano or guitar. If Swift didn’t seem so sincere and in-tune with the crowd and her dancers at every moment she’s onstage, the show could easily veer on the side of overproduced and out of touch, and she knows this. 

By far the most effective way Swift makes sure to individualize every single night of the tour is through the surprise song portion, which has taken on a life of its own. At each performance, Swift randomly chooses two songs that aren’t on the set list to play either on the acoustic guitar or on the piano. 

Every single person in the audience is crossing their fingers and hoping that by some twist of fate she’ll play their favorite song, but even if they don’t get to hear their top choice live, the two surprise songs guarantee the crowd will leave with a unique concert experience. 

Swift saves the surprise songs for the second to last part of the show, and then takes the audience into the “Midnights” era for the grand finale. Some songs are definite hits while others don’t flow as well. 

“Anti-Hero” and “Bejeweled” feel as if they were specially crafted to be performed in a stadium, but “Lavender Haze,” “Midnight Rain” and “Mastermind” don’t have the same punch behind them. Swift ends the show with a performance of “Karma” full of fireworks, glittery jackets, confetti and the last of many struts down the impossibly long catwalk stage. 

It’s exactly what is expected to end a show this gargantuan, finishing the near 200-minute run on an impossibly high note. 

And still the energy doesn’t leave the audience after Swift says her final goodbye and disappears beneath the stage. Almost immediately, tracks from “Midnights” that aren’t on the set list begin playing as fans exit the stadium, and most of the audience is still singing along, voices hoarse, continuing in the legacy Swift leaves behind each night. The countdown is on for Swift’s highly anticipated arrival in Pittsburgh on June 16, where she’ll perform two back-to-back nights at Acrisure Stadium accompanied by girl in red, Gracie Abrams and OWENN.