"In the death of her reputation, she felt truly alive" - Taylor Swift's reputation Stadium Tour, Chicago IL
Growing up really is full of love and loss and life lessons learned the hard way, but if you're lucky enough you get to go through it all with those you care about. We've all made permanent memories with temporary people so it's comforting to know there's a sense of stability in the music we chose to soundtrack our journey. I think that's why an arena felt like home as Taylor Swift shared basically her journal entries with a crowd all longing for connection and community in a world where feelings can be so incredibly isolating. Throughout the night I couldn't help but be empowered by how Taylor owns her experiences and gives herself the permission to take any situation and use for art. By the end of the night, I was ready to give myself that same freedom.
The anticipation was palpable as 52,000 people waited to hear Taylor Swift sing everything from her pop hits to her heartfelt ballads. But Taylor Swift and team do so much more than play music, they truly perform it to the fullest extent so whether you're front row or high up in the nosebleeds you feel completely enthralled. It's not just a show, it's an experience. Taylor opens the show with "...Ready For It?" as she choreographs dances alongside her army without sacrificing a bit of authenticity. Although every detail of the show is purposeful and planned, it's clear the entire effort is far from routine as each working part puts all their energy into making each night special and engaging. It was hard not to feel just a bit of magic especially with all the bracelets lighting up around the stadium, which Taylor points out allows her to see every single person.
Even though I've probably heard "Look What You Made Me Do" about a thousand times, after the snakes came out and the stage started tilting I was ready to listen to it a thousand more. It's an over the top that somehow feels completely necessary so you understand this isn't about radio play or getting media coverage or drama, it's about transforming a piece of art into an event to be remembered. As the night goes on, Taylor takes the show to other stages more into the crowd giving others the opportunity to feel apart of the action. "Shake It Off" is one big dance party exploding in color that also celebrates the other woman of the Reputation Tour, Charli XCX, and Camila Cabello, in a way that just felt like one big 3 am sleepover madness.
Taylor isn't shy about talking between songs to really give context and make you remember these lyrics all come directly from her heart and bedroom. She slows down to reminisce about her beginnings and first love of country music, and how appreciative she is to have an audience so encouraging of her exploring other styles of music. As both a thank you and maybe a small full circle moment for herself, Taylor played "Our Song" stripped down on acoustic guitar for the first time in almost 5 years. There's a lot to be appreciated about the tour as a whole, but it would feel unfair not to mention the diversity of the tour package and crew in an era where representation is crucial. It's not something I expected to see, but with adolescents all around me, I felt hopeful that they might see someone on that stage that looked like them and felt welcomed here because we all do belong here. "Dress" features a beautiful dance piece by Loie Fuller, a bi-sexual dancer who fought for artists to own the rights to their work. As June is Pride Month, Taylor took time to give a small speech making a point to say, "This is a month where I think we need to celebrate how far we've come, but we also need to acknowledge how far we still have left to go."
I could go on forever about the visuals and theatrics, the fireworks and confetti I now have scattered on my floor, the people I saw with friends and others I saw making new ones, about the production and raw talent of everyone involved; but I think the all of it is encapsulated by the sheer joy shared by an audience watching someone live out their dream to fullest extent. Taylor embraced vulnerability as she spoke about her needed time away from the public, a reminder to us all to take breaks, and the importance of knowing yourself and being confident in that. You really get to make the Reputation Tour your own, whether you need a night out or self-reflection or anything in between. The night was a celebration of love and loss and life lessons learned the hard way but most importantly never having to feel alone in any of it.
Photos by Kaitlyn Johnston
Words by Hannah Hines