We were like most of the 20,000 other Taylor Swift fans converging on the Tacoma Dome last Saturday for “The Red Tour” – a parent with a tween/teen daughter, dressed up to the nines in red (the daughter, that is) and bubbling with excitement. For my 11-year-old daughter Bianca, as for many at the Dome (judging by the scream Swift elicited when she asked if there were any concert newbies) this was not only her first time seeing Swift live, it was her first big pop concert. Though I liked Swift’s catchy country-pop, I’ve seen decades of pop sensations come and go and was a bit more jaded.
Yet I was intending to review – so what better way than to ask my daughter to give the tween point-of-view? And since we spent most of the firework-filled concert frantically texting and Instagramming our friends, we decided to text our review too.
Rosemary: Well, we just made Ed Sheeran, after a massive parking jam. He’s in good voice, pouring down sweat as he belts out “The A Team” and “Lego House” in his high, husky tenor. The looping layers of guitar/percussion are getting a bit repetitive, though.
Bianca: No, the looping thingy is really cool! I like how he explained it to the crowd. It made a lot more sense after that. And did you see how he took his phone and took a video of us all waving?! I’m recorded on Ed Sheeran’s phone!!
Rosemary: Humble is definitely part of his appeal, as in, “I’m so lucky to be here with all these fans, can I get your photo?” And the crowd’s loving singing in mass harmony with him. He knows how to work them. Wearing Seahawks colors is a nice touch, too.
Bianca: Yeah, that was cool. OMG! Look at the stage! The RED sign is coming down, and flashing, and the lights are out! I think Taylor’s going to come out soon! I’m so so so excited!!
Rosemary: You and every other girl in the house, going by the screaming! Here she is, in the first of many outfits that – to her credit – are stylish without being slutty. Black shorts and white shirt, after this it’s a succession of red: red shorts, red ballgown, red ringmaster’s cape…I love her red Dorothy shoes and matching glittery mike. A glamorous opening for “State of Grace,” with shadow-play and sweeping band arrangement. And then the production begins: shooting stage fireworks and aerial taiko drummers for “Holy Ground.” Gives the country feel some musical depth. But we could have done without the long psycho-analytical blathering about emotions “making you the person you were meant to be.” Maybe I’m just a jaded mom.
Bianca: I think that speech had meaning! Like, she shares with us how she thinks of her songs as colors, and she went really deep into the meaning of things, explaining why her album was called “Red”. It really made it more of an interesting show; if she had just sung songs it would’ve been kinda boring, you know?
Rosemary: She has a sincere delivery, I’ll give her that, plus positive messages about being strong in yourself without resorting to underwear-clad gyrations, and that’s refreshing. And the anti-bully speech before “Mean” is exactly what teen girls need to hear.
Bianca: I know! It’s like she read my mind; “Mean” was my inspiration to keep on going whenever I felt pushed around. It’s like, Taylor Swift understands; she’s there for you. And she was able to be sincere, and keep the attention on her through pure talent, not dancing around crazily and getting bad publicity.
Rosemary: Exactly. But look – the production values just keep getting more ornate. “Lucky One,” done like a black-and-white ’30s film come to mournful life; “You Belong With Me” (nice to hear some older songs) done in a weird, ditzy ‘50s way with red gloves and shooby-doo back-up singers. “Red” was glammed up with dancers (she has a good set) clad in “Les Mis” gray rags and twirling red flags; “Love Story” done to a complete “Coppelia”-esque ballet, a wildly Gothic/”Phantom of the Opera” version of “Trouble”…some director was having a blast.
Bianca: IKR! It was like a live music video! And Taylor just changed costumes like, bam! Oh, and did you see that red piano? And that guitar!
Rosemary: Which one? She had about five.
Bianca: I would love to have those instruments. And I loved how she did some old songs; they were some of my favorites from her other albums!
Rosemary: She’s definitely showing off her singing chops. When she gets away from the breaking, little-girl voice like in the verses of “22,” she really blasts the Dome with a powerful, clear belt that doesn’t come through much in the studio. “Mean” and “You’re Not Sorry” focused on her simple but effective banjo and guitar playing, and the duet with Sheeran on the second stage was sweet, though I’d have liked to see more harmonies from these two good vocalists.
Bianca: Yeah, “22” is one of my favorite songs from that album. But I think that “breaking, little-girl voice” is beautiful, and honestly there’s not much difference. It’s just two different styles of singing, that’s all, and I think Taylor performs them both equally well.
Rosemary: And finally – the moment 20,000 fans have been waiting for: those monotonous three-note staccato phrases that open “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” With the stage looking like a Cirque du Soleil show – twirling gold video, dance team in red and white with stilts, 18th-century white wigs and commedia dell-arte costumes – Swift paraded around the stage like she owned it, conducting her adoring fans in one last a cappella chorus that rocked the rafters.
Bianca: I love that song! And it’s fitting that she ended with it, seeing that it was the lead single from “Red.” And the way it was put on was amazing; red and white heart confetti! They thought of every last detail. This was the best night ever!
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568 firstname.lastname@example.org