As the hazy synth pop beats blasted through State Farm Stadium, you could hear a gasp and a simultaneous “OH MY GOD!” barely heard above the ecstatic mayhem (and in some cases sobbing) among the nearly 70,000 in attendance. Swift, shimmering in a silver-embellished shimmering bodysuit and matching knee-high boots, wowed the crowd because she knew exactly what she was doing.
Swift fans believe that in a parallel universe, “Cruel Summer” (the wistful anthem from her 2019 album “Lover” about a heated and toxic relationship with a chorus that demands you sing and scream along) was meant to be the song of summer 2020, released as a single , when Swift planned to start a series of Lover Fest festivals. Apparently, the global calamity of 2020 happened instead. Still, the obsession with “Cruel Summer” continued, especially since Swift had never performed it live.
Analysis | Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour Opening: Complete recap of all 44 songs
So this wasn’t just a song. For many, this was a poignant, subconscious reminder of how much we lost and what could have been. It was also a moment of pure, delusional joy—not just because of the thrill of hearing a beloved song live for the first time, but because it’s clear that even one of the most powerful celebrities on the planet had felt all this, too. It seems no coincidence that at the height of his first show on his Eras Tour – 52 dates of sold-out Stadiums – he wanted to pick up where he left off before the world shut down.
“I don’t know how to deal with all of this and how it makes me feel right now,” Swift told the stadium after the song ended, her voice shaking a little. He later added: “I’m really, really, really overwhelmed, and I’m trying to hold it together all night.”
“Trying to keep it together” is rarely applied For Swift, 33, who is nearing the end of her second decade as a professional musician and has risen to the rare, celebrated status of a once-in-a-generation pop star. He has no cold. After rising to fame with songs about him awkward, unpopular teenage years, he now embraces edginess and seriousness. It’s part of the draw of his legions of fans who see him as one of them. After Ticketmaster’s meltdown during the Eras Tour sale, the chairman of the parent company went on the defensive, citing extreme demand, claiming that the number of people trying for tickets “would have filled 900 stadiums”.
Swifties paid hundreds — sometimes thousands — of dollars for tickets and trips and descended on Glendale this weekend determined to make the often painful ticketing process a distant memory. The Phoenix suburb that recently hosted the Super Bowl could barely contain its excitement. The mayor announced it would temporarily change its name to “Swift City,” and electronic signs along the highway encouraged safe driving with the Swift word: “OUT? DON’T GET BAD BLOOD. SHAKE IT OFF.” “SAFE DRIVING? YOU NEED CALM.”
But that was nothing compared to the electric energy that surrounded the stadium. To be a Taylor Swift fan is to learn to master the clues and secret messages that can be embedded in every lyric, public comment, and social media post, no matter how opaque. Becoming a Taylor Swift fan is always ready, which includes planning the perfect outfit to wear to a concert, and the endless options given by the singer herself have chosen a tour theme of “eras” that celebrates her past and present.
Being in a crowd was like being in a force field where all pretense is gone; Swift’s music runs the gamut from bubble-gum pop (which she calls “glitter gel pen lyrics”) to deep introspection, and her concerts are a place where you can dance or cry to either beat. Swift has revealed her own insecurities and feelings on more than 10 studio albums and more than 200 songs. Here, in his presence and with each other, fans become their true selves.
Scanning the crowd, you can see countless sequin and bejeweled skirts and jackets, a tribute to the “1989” era. There were also navy blue star-studded dresses for “Midnights”; red heart sunglasses, a black bowler hat and a T-shirt that says “Not much right now,” a shout-out to the “22” music video; dark lipstick and black leotards as a tribute to fame; the lyrics scratched people’s arms with markers, something Swift used to do before every concert; and No. 13 hand-painted, another past Swift tradition when she started out as a country star.
“My inspiration is the Red Tour, one of Taylor’s iconic outfits, and I just wanted to recreate it,” said Giacomo Benavides, a 26-year-old content producer dressed as a circus ringleader who traveled to the show from Peru.
Some were even more specific: Olivia Jackter of Tucson, 26, used a traffic light with the phrase “I don’t know,” referring to the lyrics from the song “Death By a Thousand Cuts.” Did the non-swifts get it? Of course not. Did it matter? Of course not. “This was my costume for Lover Fest. I’ve been waiting for this for years,” Jackter said.
A group of women in their 20s affixed plastic Easter eggs to white T-shirts with pictures of some of their favorite “Easter eggs” and hints that Swift has dropped over the years. One man dressed as a cat was Swift’s newest pet, Benjamin. The two women shouted excitedly when they walked next to each other in the food line and saw that they were wearing matching floral dresses similar to what Swift wore to the 2021 Grammys.
Another popular theme was “All Too Well,” a searing breakup ballad that recently got a second life when Swift released an updated 10-minute version. Many fans wore outfits with these words. Ivan Hernandez of Phoenix wore a blue T-shirt that read, “Where’s the scarf, Jake?” – a reference to the song’s supposed subject, Swift’s ex-boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal, and a lyric that suggests he swiped her scarf.
“[My son] wanted to go to a concert, and he said, ‘Let’s wear outfits,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m not going to wear a weird outfit,'” said Hernandez, 46, whose 13-year-old son, Eli, was wearing an Eras Tour shirt they had bought from the merchandise department Saturday afternoon before Swift’s second show. “So I just went online and started looking for something about ‘All Too Well’ and this came up.”
Swift, who misses nothing, praised everyone for their efforts from the stage.
“You guys have really outdone yourself. The way you decided to show up for this concert, you really, really decided to show up,” he said, noting that he saw people dressed as mirror balls (from “Mirrorball”); willow trees (from “Willow”); and “sexy babies” (from “Anti-Hero” – and too complicated to explain). “I’ve seen some really amazing, specific visual representations of lyrics or weird interiors that we have online.”
“I was thinking about tonight and how special this is,” he added. “You’ve got me here to believe that it’s special to you too, so it’s really nice that it’s mutual.”
Swift’s unusually close relationship with fans started back when he was a country artist, a genre where singers are supposed to think of listeners as their age. Swift always went the extra mile and chatted with fans on Myspace even before Nashville executives even knew what it was, and the connection continues to this day.
At the concert, Swift referred to the journey she and her fans have taken together as if they were family. (“Four new family members,” he said, are the four albums he’s released since his last tour.) He made no secret of the fact that he oversees fans’ social media activity, even dryly noting that his 2020 album “Evermore” is “an album I absolutely love, despite what some of you say on TikTok.” (People on the platform are convinced that “Evermore” is his “forgotten child”.)
This is why his bond fandom is still so strong. Early on, she joined other teenage girls who concluded from society that their crushes, feelings, and dreams were silly, only to find in Swift someone who took them seriously and who knew how to express in songwriting what they didn’t even know they felt. .
“When he’s lived through something and written about it and released music, I live through it,” said Briana McReynolds, 32, of Phoenix, who appeared in a T-shirt with lyrics and a purple line in her hair to represent “Lavender Haze,” Swift’s latest single. Her best friend Chris accompanied her to the concert as “emotional support as Swift”. (“I’ll do my best,” he said.)
“He just accidentally wrote the soundtrack to my life,” McReynolds said. “He has matured with all of us or we have matured with him. So no matter what age I am, he can sing my heart out.”
Caitlin O’Connor, 32, of San Diego came to the show with her mother; they’ve seen every Swift tour together over the past 15 years, and O’Connor makes sure they go multiple times.
“You don’t need therapy; you need Taylor Swift songs,” O’Connor said. He explained that Swift’s concerts are my happy places and there is nothing else like it. It is the most natural high you can achieve in your entire life. On his arm is a tattoo of the words to Swift’s “Treacherous”: “We’re just skin and bones, trained to get along.”
“I love that line. Basically, everybody’s human,” she said. “And that goes for Taylor Swift concerts, too: Everybody’s really nice. … you bond with something immediately.”
Swift is acutely aware of the world she’s built, and she doesn’t shy away from it. In a surprisingly direct confession, when he introduced the song “Mirrorball” from his 2020 album “Folklore” during an acoustic set, he reiterated to the crowd how desperately he’s missed them over the past several years.
“I thought about how one of the songs I wrote in my mind during the pandemic was one of the first songs I wrote on ‘Folklore,’ and I was the one who wrote about how badly I missed the connection that I feel caring that you’ve guided my way,” she said. “I was trying to come up with some kind of eloquent way of saying I love you and need your attention all the time.”
The stadium fell silent as he nodded and sang.
“I’ve never been natural, I just try, try, try; I’m still on that trapeze, I’m still trying my best to keep you looking at me. Because I’m a mirror ball. … I will show you every version of yourself tonight.”
And while he asked the crowd members for attention, he didn’t have to; it was already there and always will be.