Review: Taylor Swift sparkles on stage in Melbourne
On the tail end of her Speak Now world tour, country sweetheart Taylor Swift charmed tens of thousands of fans at the first of three Melbourne shows.
Taylor Swift @ Rod Laver Arena, 12/03/12 Review: Giselle Nguyen Photo: Talitha Conway
From the moment Nashville pop rockers Hot Chelle Rae blasted into “Beautiful Freaks”, the standing section was whipped into a frenzy, singing and hand-clapping the whole way through the set. Singer Ryan Follesé took full advantage of the T in front of the stage, leaping all the way across it to get as close to the crowd as he could. The hits came hard and fast, with “Tonight, Tonight” followed by a cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream”, which saw the audience carry the last chorus with ear-splittingly loud enthusiasm. Follesé’s rapping during “Whatever” was right on point, and expectedly “I Like It Like That” was saved for last, with the crowd singing along to every word.
The eager crowd - from eight-year-olds clutching their mothers' hands to teenage girls in short shorts to equally excited adults - was kept occupied by quiz questions and videos up on the big screen, but as soon as the lights dimmed and the star’s voice rang over the loudspeaker with words of inspiration, the room fell silent.
The red curtain covering the stage swept open and Taylor Swift appeared in a puff of smoke from beneath the stage, showcasing her trademark surprised face as she glanced around the stadium and opened her mouth to start the show with “Sparks Fly”. “I’m Taylor,” she smiled when she finished singing – as if the tens of thousands of dedicated fans didn’t already know.
Swift is backed by a wholly able band, with plenty of guitar solos over the night and two drummers. Any doubts about her own musical ability were quelled when she picked up the guitar for the next tune, “Mine”, and rose out of the ground, sitting at a grand piano, for a rousing, string-drenched “Back To December”, which she mixed vocally with “You’re Not Sorry” and OneRepublic’s “Apologize”.
Over the evening, the superstar showed plenty of sides of her personality – from the Pippi Longstocking plaited, banjo-playing country bumpkin during “Our Song” and “Mean”, to the sexed up rock chick for “Better Than Revenge”, to the sweet girl next door as she sat demurely on a lit up tree at the back of the stadium, acoustic guitar in hand, and sang earnest renditions of “Ours” and “Last Kiss”, complete with harp.
Starting “You Belong With Me” acoustically, as the song built and scenes from the video flashed up on the big screen, Swift jumped down and ran around the entire perimeter of the arena, hugging delighted fans along the way.
Visually the show was a complete feast, with a staircase winding all the way down the stage and turning into a wedding scene for “Speak Now”, actual fireworks exploding on cue of the word sung during “Dear John”, acrobats hanging upside down from massive bells for “Haunted” and showers of glitter and confetti to drown in. Swift’s rapport with both her band and dancers was clear as she was perfectly in sync with each and every one of them, evident most strongly with her male counterpart for the heartwarming “Enchanted”.
Encoring first with Hunger Games tune “Safe and Sound” as she sat on a sofa, clutching a toy koala, Swift then offered some sage wisdom – “I don’t know everything,” she admitted, “but there was a time when I thought I did – I was about fifteen years old.” Cue a magical singalong of “Fifteen”, complete with photos of all of Swift’s crew on the big screen at that age, before the grand finale of the night, “Love Story”, which saw the singer soaring over the crowd on a balcony, dazzling gold confetti exploding across the room at the song’s climax.
Mixing honest musicality with thrilling theatrics, the show was a total treat from start to finish. Taylor Swift, it really was enchanting to meet you.