Words | Nicholas Kennedy
Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, 26/10/18
“I don’t think I’ve actually ever been here before,” I commented to my partner as we walked through Gate 5 of Marvel Stadium, while the obscured bellow of Broods echoed out of the venue’s archways. It’s true: setting foot in Marvel/Etihad/Telstra Dome has always been an experience that has escaped me for one reason or another. Hitting big shows whenever they come to Melbourne normally has me at Sidney Myer or Margaret Court, but – as I would soon come to learn – there are big shows, and then there’s Taylor Swift.
A performer like Swift toes a few dualities in her performance: real or fake, distant or intimate, past selves and current circumstances. Trying to be the right thing to as many people as possible over the course of her two hour-odd performance, Swift touched on all of them, and more. That ambition to transmit such a wide array of emotions is what pop artists do for us, as a reflection of ourselves.
It’s impossible to talk about Swift without touching on her ‘media narrative’ of the past three years, especially when her most recent album and the reason for this tour, Reputation, leans so heavily into what seemed like a build-up of resentment and a personal brand that had escaped Swift’s own control. Luckily for the singer-songwriter, that lean resonated with her fanbase, and paid off. A throwaway question to my partner of “What’s with all the snakeskin print in the audience?” was followed by silence, and an “ohhh…” of comprehension with which I answered myself. Swift’s fans not only know the words, they know the battle plan.
This being Swift’s first wholly stadium tour, the effort put into staging was phenomenal. The stage was backed by two enormous panels, angling inwards to meet in the middle. Throughout the night these panels shifted, creating openings through which dancers could hang off wires, and the band could wander out onto the two massive walkways into the crowd. During Bad Blood Swift flew over the audience and up into the ceilingworks too, patrolling the ramparts of her castle like a queen under siege. During Look What You Made Me Do she teetered on a see-sawing throne, guided by an impressive dance troupe who served as the backbone of the entire performance.
Speaking of Bad Blood and troupes, there’s a new squad in town (not that I could have named the earlier one). Swift seems to have prioritised women of colour for a large portion of her back-up dancers and singers, which is good to see, but difficult not to cast as a response to prior criticism.
The bulk of the show took place on two platforms in the middle of the stadium. Shake It Off was a joyous explosion with confetti and colour flying everywhere, during which Swift brought her openers, CharliXCX and Broods’ Georgia Nott, back to the stage. At this moment I found myself walking throughout the stadium – to the bar, perhaps – and caught sight of confetti twirling throughout the air, the faces of the audience transfixed in celebration over what is, admittedly, a really fun song with a really worthy message.
It’s in moments like this that Swift truly belongs. It’s a shame that this tour needs to be about Swift’s reputation or character at all, because as a performer, she is wholly justified. As the chateau projected behind Swift burned down, and the dancers froliced in the on-stage water fountains, Swift looked more at peace than the haters would ever have liked.
There are two dates left on Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour; details and ticketing links below.
Friday, 2nd November
ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Tickets: Live Nation
Tuesday, 6th November
The Gabba, Brisbane
Tickets: Live Nation