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Taylor Swift: The Eras tour Melbourne show review – eye-popping spectacle from a generous performer

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When Taylor Swift first played in Melbourne 15 years ago, it was to an audience of 900. This week in the city, the US megastar performs for a quarter of a million.

Love her or hate her, there’s no denying it: Australia is in the thick of Swiftmania. Leading up to the hotly anticipated Australian leg of Swift’s Eras Tour, Melbourne was lit up with it all, from a Swift-themed academic symposium to a pop-up merchandise stand at Crown, to a projection on Flinders Street Station welcoming Swifties to
town – with the clock striking 13, naturally.

It feels historic. What other musician has inspired this level of fanaticism since, dare I say it, the Beatles? We’re talking seismic impacts from cheering at her shows, and the growing practice of Taylor-gating, in which ticketless fans gather outside the stadium to listen in and sing along together.

The Eras Tour – the highest-grossing concert tour of all time (of all time!) – has been a fascinating beast to watch from afar. Moving through the stages of Swift’s chameleonic career, it’s smartly designed for maximum engagement. Each night Swift plays an essentially identical setlist bar two “surprise songs”. A concert film was released in October, so most fans know exactly what to expect (and have learned all the dances and chants from TikTok).

The excitement is palpable and the atmosphere electric at the MCG on the first of her seven Australian shows. With 96,000 fans in attendance, it’s the biggest show of the tour – and her career – yet.

Thousands of strangers become instant friends inside and outside the show. Young women swap handmade friendship bracelets and compliment each other’s outfits, often elaborate and handmade. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels my inner child healing – to paraphrase Swift herself, it gives me back my girlhood.

The show itself is an eye-popping spectacle and completely engrossing – it clocks in at an impressive three and a half hours, but flies by. The singer dips into each of her albums – other than 2006’s self-titled album (justice for Debut!) – which are represented by distinctive outfits and personalities: the dreamy hues of Lover, the gold of Fearless, the earthy, bucolic Folklore and Evermore, the gritty edge of Reputation, the princess gowns of Speak Now, the passion of Red, the metropolitan cool of 1989, the glitz and glam of Midnights.

Each fan receives a wristband, which flashes in colours to match the era. Moving platforms, stairs and intricate sets – a forest seance for Evermore, a log cabin for Folklore – and a slick team of tightly choreographed dancers (including internet sensation Kameron Saunders, on fire as always) ensure there is always something to marvel at. Pyrotechnics, enormous smoke machines and fireworks – par for the course at this stage.

Swift is a generous, genuine performer. Much of her audience banter is scripted, but there’s nothing fake about the tears she sheds as she surveys the enormous crowd after Champagne Problems. Her stamina is incredible and her voice in fine form, but never better than on the evening’s two highlights, the 10-minute version of All Too Well and the live debut of You’re Losing Me on piano – breakup songs so vivid and emotional that screaming along with her and tens of thousands of others, I almost forgot I’m in a happy relationship.

It’s pure joy. So much of the Eras Tour is fan service, from the inclusion of fan anthem Long Live (added later in the tour) to Easter eggs and iconic Swift moments, such as the Fearless spin. In the sweetest moment of each night, a fan – usually a child – is handed a hat off Swift’s head during her performance of 22.

This is a fan base who can spot even the slightest difference in a performance – a single note change in The 1 draws rapturous cheers, and a spirited shout in the chorus of The Last Great American Dynasty feels like it’s just for us.

The Eras Tour is, Swift says, for new fans and those who have been there since the very beginning. Judging by the number of millennial mothers and their young daughters, it’s become intergenerational. The feeling really is one of inclusion and love – the show somehow feels simultaneously massive and like the most intimate thing in the world.

On the crowded walk back into the city after the show, a busker sings You Belong With Me and we all sing along. Swift’s refrain from All Too Well echoes in my head: I was there, I was there. When I woke up this morning, my wristband was still flashing colours above my bed, as if to say: yes, you were.

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