I’m starting to think that all those guys who say they’re “taking one for the team” by accompanying their daughters or their significant others to Taylor Swift concerts have an ulterior motive.
Stay with me here. As I write this, T-Swizzle’s show at Time Warner Cable Arena Monday night just ended an hour ago, and here’s what’s sticking out in my mind:
▪ To my right, the twentysomething guy who was more proficient at reciting the lyrics to “Blank Space” than his female companion.
▪ The dad, about 15 feet in front of me, who was working on a set of moves during “Out of the Woods” that appeared to be a close cousin of Elaine’s dance from “Seinfeld.”
▪ The middle-aged man in the floor section, with his wife, who spent half the night trying to get a decent selfie in which he could make out Tay Tay shaking it off in the background.
Frankly, the past two times I’ve seen Swift at this same arena – in March 2013 and November 2011 – there seemed to be noticeably fewer male ticketholders, and the ones who were in attendance back then spent a heck of a lot more time with their butts in their seats and their cellphone browsers dialed into ESPN.com.
So what’s changed? The big thing is: She’s 25 now, and with each passing year, it’s gotten slightly less awkward for older men to find her attractive. She struts around her stage with confidence, she has a body that wouldn’t look out of place on a fashion runway and a face that appears not to have a flaw.
She also gets better, with each passing year, at creating earworms. Songs like “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space” are two off her “1989” CD that have burrowed into the brains of women and men alike, waiting to pop into your head when you get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, then keeping you up for two hours.
But otherwise, Swift is pretty much the same young woman she was when she came here two years ago, aside from the fact that the former country singer has completely abandoned anything resembling a Nashville sound.
Swift is still segueing into songs by telling cute but rambling stories that wind up being mini-pep talks designed to boost her fans’ self-esteem. (Truth be told, all she has to do is talk directly to her audience in a way that doesn’t feel rushed and they’ll squeal as if she’s just announced she’s treating everyone to a free ice cream cone.)
She’s still changing outfits more often than an indecisive teenager shopping for a prom dress at Belk, with most of them baring midriff, showcasing her aggravatingly perfect legs, or blinding you with sequins. Or doing all three at once. (Outfit of the night: the lightbulb-covered dress she wore during “How You Get the Girl,” which blinked, twinkled, changed colors and generally increased the tour’s electric bill.)
She’s still finding a way to thrust herself closer to her fans without ever touching a single one of them, in this case rising a couple dozen feet above the floor via a catwalk on a hydraulic lift system that could achieve 360-degree range of motion, sweeping out over the entire floor. (During finale “Shake It Off,” Swift and her 12 male backup dancers were up there as it spun, she in a shimmery green dress, them in purple tuxes with short-pant bottoms.)
Perhaps most importantly, though, she’s still getting it done. Still grabbing a guitar and whipping her hair around like Dave Grohl during “We Are Never Getting Back Together”; still twisting and remolding well-known hits in daring ways (here turning “I Knew You Were Trouble” into a darker, moodier piece of music); still sitting down at a piano and putting peers to shame by playing it ably while achieving perfectly pitched vocals on “Wildest Dreams.”
All the marks of a big-budget stage show were still present, too: In addition to the massive/fancy catwalk, there were fireworks, confetti, smoke, her backup dancers, four female backup singers, giant paper airplanes, doors on wheels, light-up parasols, streetlamps that doubled as poles for those backup dancers to dance on... whew, hang on, almost done... and a massive video screen showing everything from clips of the pop star with her cats to montages of celebrities like Lena Dunham and Selena Gomez talking about how amazing and adorable Swift is.
To top it all off, the tour distributed 15,000 radio-controlled wristbands that flashed on cue, in various colors, making the place look like it was overrun with rave-ready fireflies.
And though you had to squint through the darkness to tell, if you looked hard enough – past all those girls and young women dominating the arenascape – you would have seen that that twentysomething guy had one on, and so did the dad doing the bad dancing, and so did the selfie-obsessed middle-aged man.
I wasn’t wearing one, though. Yeah. I think I’m sticking with that story.