SALT LAKE CITY — “Good evening Salt Lake. I’m Taylor,” the pop superstar introduced herself Friday night to a defining roar of applause.
Ten years ago, Taylor Swift was driving through Salt Lake City with her mother making stops on her radio promotion tour, hoping to get stations to play her songs.
Friday, it was hard to find anyone in Salt Lake City that didn’t know Taylor Swift was in town or find a Top 40 station that didn’t play her music. Swift’s show sold out within minutes of going on sale months ago.
Arguably the biggest pop star in the world currently, Swift brought her massively successful, big budget “1989 Tour” into Salt Lake City.
And it was everything fans hoped it would be.
The shrills from the audience, made up of mostly pre-teen and teenage girls, was deafening when the lights went down signaling the start of the show. Some young girls actually cried as their pop hero appeared on stage for the first time. Many held signs, some decorated with battery-powered lights, all with phrases representing some part of the 1989 album. Some waved large cardboard “1989” numbers.
Opening with “Welcome to New York,” Swift entered onto a Big Apple-esque stage setting. The massive bi-level stage included a large digital screen in the back and two screens on either side so every person in the house could get a close up look at Taylor. A catwalk stretched out to about three-quarters of the arena floor.
Like her last tour, Swift’s set list Friday concentrated heavily on her most recent album, the namesake of her tour, including “Out of the Woods” and crowd favorite “Style.”
And while there weren’t as many stage props as her last tour, Swift’s show included high-tech cameras that are traditionally only seen at major sporting events, and wristbands that were handed out to all 15,000 people in the arena. The wristbands were programmed to light-up in certain colors during different points of the show to compliment the music, making the entire arena part of the stage show.
Joining Swift on stage were her band, backup singers, and a highly talented dance troupe of about a dozen men who performed with her for nearly every song, turning each number into a mini-theatrical production.
“I Know Places”,” from 1989, incorporated several doors as part of their dance number. Illuminated umbrellas were used for “How You Get The Girl” in a “Singing in the Rain” type of setting. While your “Wildest Dreams” was made to resemble an underwater theme. The dancers stood behind screens and let their silhouettes take center stage for “Blank Space.”
Swift also went through several costume changes throughout the night, switching from shorts, to skirts – both mini and knee-length, knee-high boots to a skin-tight leather body suit for “Bad Blood.”
In addition to her new material, Swift also performed revamped versions of her earlier hits, including a darker “I Knew You Were Trouble” and an angry, harder rocking version of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” that found Swift looking more like Joan Jett with her black leather and electric guitar.
“You Belong With Me” became a huge crowd sing-along as Swift strapped on an acoustic guitar for a solo set. A platform lifted her high above the arena, and then slowly spun in circles, giving everyone a view of the star. She continued her solo set with “Clean,” during which many members of the audience held up cut-out paper hearts, followed by “Love Story,” which found Swift switching from guitar to keyboard.
While performing her songs, Swift strutted her lanky legs across all parts of the stage with an enormous amount of confidence and poise. But between songs, Swift presented more of an “aw shucks” demeanor rather than signs of being a diva.
The cheers and screams from the crowd were so loud that at one point Swift told the audience, “You should write books on how to be an awesome crowd.”
Several times she thanked the crowd for buying 1989 and coming to her shows. She also thanked them for helping her recently with the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year.
“Thanks for having my back,” she said.
It was in SLC that she had one of her first ever theater shows sell out nearly a decade ago, she said. Friday night, Swift said it was her fourth time at Energy Solutions Arena, and her fourth consecutive sell out.
Swift also took extra time to give an extended motivational speech targeting mainly the young people in the audience, telling them to recognize their own self-importance and not let the words of others pull them down.
“You are your own definition of beautiful and worthwhile,” she said.
Swift admitted she had been fighting a cold all week and at times sounded congested while speaking, though her vocals sounded fine when she sang. Whether that was due to assistance from her backup singers and/or recorded voice tracks, her legion of adoring fans didn’t seem to mind.
The “1989 Tour” stays in the States through October before going overseas.
When Swift last visited the city for her Red Tour, it was hard to imagine she could put on a bigger show than that one or the audience could be more enthusiastic. And even though there was no special guest in Salt Lake City, as has become customary at many of her performances this tour and as some had hoped would happen, Friday at Energy Solutions Arena she may have outdone herself.