Taylor Swift: The girl-next-door grows up

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 15, 2011 - 8:32 AM

REVIEW: Taylor Swift's opening show in St. Paul was a high-paced, colorful success for the 15,000 fans present.

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With apologies to Johnny Cash, Taylor Swift really does know how to walk the line.

Not the line between country and pop, but the line between glam and natural, between wow and what's up, between Broadway and back porch. But those were not the most impressive parts of her balancing act at sold-out Xcel Energy Center Tuesday. Her greatest triumph was her remarkable ability to obliterate the lines between the various factions in her audience and connect with all of them -- the bevy of girls under 10 (her crowd keeps getting young and younger), the teenagers, the college gals and even those four 20-something guys in the plaid shirts right in front of the stage.

At 21, the biggest music star of the century -- she's the top-selling digital artist of all time, the youngest person to ever win the album-of-the-year Grammy and she sold more albums than any artist in 2008 and 2010 -- is an unimpeachable role model for females of all ages. She's self-confident, resilient, smart, independent, blah, blah, blah -- and so relatable.

Swift's Speak Now Tour -- her second as a headliner -- was two steps forward and maybe a half step back from her Fearless Tour, which played the Twin Cities in 2009 and 2010. This show was less energetic, more polished and just not as teenybopperish. This lavish production was as ambitious and stagey as Lady Gaga's or Britney Spears' but just not as provocative. Inspired by Broadway, Cirque du Soleil and "Glee," Swift had ballerinas, tap dancers, aerial acrobats, fireworks, flashpots, dramatic scenarios in different settings (church, forest, porch, etc.), enough costumes changes to rival Cher and even a small window balcony that flew over the crowd carrying Swift as she sang about Romeo and Juliet in "Love Story."

Throughout the two-hour, 17-song performance, Swift's dramatic face peered at the video camera, expressing joy, sadness or whatever the lyric called for. Her vocals were more heartfelt on the acoustic tunes, when she sat under a faux tree on a satellite stage and plucked "Last Kiss" on an acoustic guitar and "Fearless" on ukulele. One of the highlights was her piano medley of her apologetic "Back to December" (with fake snowflakes falling on the fans), followed by One Republic's "Apologize" as emphatic interlude and then her scorching "You're Not Sorry." Her biggest hits -- including "Mine," "Our Song" and "You Belong with Me" (one of the all-time best songs written from a high school girl's point of view) -- turned into giant sing-alongs with the 15,000 fans sounding piercingly pitchy.

Although Swift waltzed through the crowd going to and from the satellite stage, she spent less time than in the past greeting her fans. She just breezed through with a slew of handslaps and an occasional hug. Unlike her last tour, she didn't stop several times during the show and bask in the overwhelming adoration of her fans. This time, she was more purposeful, business-like and, frankly, mature. But then, once in a while, Swift would get in touch with her inner high-school self and say "Why not" -- like when she shot off fireworks near the end of the ballad "Dear John." Sometimes Swift just has to step over the line.

For set list: startribune.com/artcetera

Twitter: @jonbream • 612-673-1719

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