T-swizzle sizzles; Taylor Swift red hot in Salt Lake Saturday night

SALT LAKE CITY — Part concert. Part ballet. Part Stomp. Part Broadway play. Part VH1 Storytellers.

But all Taylor Swift.

Saturday night at Energy Solutions Arena, Swift brought her massive RED World Tour to Salt Lake City. While Swift’s vocals aren’t as strong as some of her other pop and country-pop counterparts (Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson). And her synchronized dance moves aren’t the most complex. What Swift does bring to the stage is the entire package – singing, choreography, theatrics, big stage production, and a ton of enthusiasm.

Swift was poised, confident, very gracious with her fans, and engaged the audience in a way that showed why she is a two-time winner of the coveted CMA award for ENTERTAINER of the year.

Going to a Taylor Swift show isn’t just about hearing a bunch of songs sung live, it’s an entire experience. It’s a night of entertainment. And it starts with the legion of hardcore fans who sold out the ESA before tickets even went on sale to the general public. Women and young little girls dominated the sold out 14,000+ arena. The lines at the merch tables were longer than seen at most concerts. And fans brought enough glow sticks and homemade signs that lit up – some spelling out “Taylor,” others flashing the name of the new album, “Red,” while others held up cut-out “22″ signs – that the crowd was illuminated all night.

When the lights went down, signaling Swift was about to go on stage, the shrills from her adoring young fans were deafening. Swift brought a HUGE stage production with her. Between the main stage plus catwalks, plus production boards, cameras and a smaller stage in the back of arena, Swift’s stage and crew took up the majority of space on the Energy Solutions’ floor. Throughout the evening, one never knew what part of the stage would rise up, drop off or who would shoot out of the floor. There were at least eight giant video and digital screens, giving even those on the top row a good view of show. The stage was also large enough to give all of Swift’s posse room to move about. She was accompanied by her six piece band, four back-up singers and about a dozen dancers.

As the massive curtains dropped, Swift was on top of a staircase belting out “State of Grace,” the opening track from her latest album. Swift’s set list focused heavily on the new album. Eleven of her 17 song set list came from Red.

From there, it was two hours of music, costume switches and scene changes. Swift rotated between black shorts, a white blouse and red shoes, to glamorous dresses to chic all-American girl styles (striped shires and red pants) to sexy yet modest outfits, always maintaining her role model image.

Swift changed the arrangement on “You Belong with Me” to more of a Dreamgirls feel, complete with four backup singers. Highlights off the new album in concert included the current single, “22,” “All Too Well” and a great acoustic duet with opening act Ed Sheeran on “Everything has Changed” that saw both Swift and Sheeran with guitars strapped on. Swift and her dance troupe made their way from the main stage to a smaller one at the other end of the floor (which also rose up and spun around) during “22″ giving fans in the far end of the arena an unexpected front row seat. She stayed at the small stage for a solo acoustic “Begin Again,” “Our Song” and “Sparks Fly.” Swift was very gracious in shaking and slapping hands and giving hugs to the younger fans as she made her way through the arena floor.

Swift – who typically has her dating life discussed in the tabloids -  admitted to the crowd she writes a lot of songs and breakups and about her feelings. And when she wasn’t singing about feelings Saturday night, she talked a lot about feelings between songs, as well as emotions and chasing dreams, with the end of the speech typically leading into the next song. She talked about bullies both growing up and in adulthood before launching into “Mean.”

The set changes were frequent. “The Lucky One” included a Hollywood starlet type of scenario being chased by paparazzi. “Love Story” was set to a music box and ballerina setting. “I Knew You Were Trouble” was a cross between Phantom of the Opera and Twilight. And the confetti was flying everywhere at the end when Swift, dressed in a circus ringleader costume, was backed by clowns, dancers and people on stilts for the finale, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

Many of Taylor’s dresses that she has worn in videos or during other concerts were on display around the arena. Even between the opener Sheeran and Taylor’s set, it was all about Swift. Interviews and even behind the scene moments about her videos were displayed on the many giant screens hung around the stage (Who knew the “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” video was done in one shot?!)

Putting an entire Taylor Swift concert into words is difficult because there is just so much going on. It’s truly an entertainment experience and more than just a concert. And every little girl in the audience was guaranteed to go home with a smile on her face.

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