Hollywood, Taylor Swift is ready for her close-up.
The former teenage country supernova has, at 25, seamlessly evolved into America’s biggest pop star. And she played the role of the pop star to the T (or should we say Tay?) on Friday night at Xcel Energy Center. Costumes, dancing, glitz. Katy Perry has nothing on her.
She also played the supermodel, strutting up and down the runway. Legs, hair, poses. Karlie Kloss has nothing on her.
What could Swift play next? Maybe Joni Mitchell on the silver screen. With all those facial expressions, with the way the camera loved her gazes and glares, with the way she seduced her fans.
Except there was one problem: She didn’t do a very effective job of being Taylor Swift. Her 115-minute show was devoid of the sincerity, warmth and personality of old. To be sure, she’s matured, but has the awkward charm of that Nashville girl-next-door superstar somehow been transformed into the cool, slick, slightly snooty, almost egocentric personality of a New Yorker?
That’s one of the cities she calls home and it certainly colored her show Friday, from the opening number, “Welcome to New York,” to the edgy outfits and moves of her backup dancers, to her Broadway-ish bow at show’s end.
Whenever Swift would exit to change outfits, the 15,000 fans were subjected to videos of some of her best friends — Lena Dunham, Selena Gomez, Kloss — talking about Tay Tay and how she’s the patron saint of cats, how she’s unfairly subjected to scrutiny about her relationships and how she’s the greatest friend in the world.
Swift can speak for herself, as she did plenty, about how to get over heartache and how the cynical media is unfair to her. It’s unclear whether her friends’ filibustering or Swift waxing romantic resonated with her fans, who appear to be younger and younger with each tour — in other words, many girls under 10 with parents.
Unlike Swift’s previous tours that visited St. Paul, this one does not have elaborate set pieces and little dramas. Instead it was mostly about strutting down the catwalk, soaring over the crowd on a movable runway and 12 male backup dancers in colorful outfits providing the energy as they romped with T Swizzle.
That style fit the material, which was drawn mostly from Swift’s blockbuster “1989.” Inspired by 1980s MTV pop, the album offers stories without the multi-layers of her earlier work and repetitious lyrics that are not as consistently clever as before. But the music is punchier and catchier.
“Style” was bright, bold 1980s pop — the one number on which her supermodel strut made perfect sense. And the smash “Shake It Off,” which was the infectious encore, is just one of those energetic earworms that makes everyone want to get up and dance.
Swift borrowed some tricks from other successful entities: the lit-up wristbands that blink to the music (from Coldplay) and the fly-over-the-crowd camera (from the NFL). Her stolen-from-Rolling-Stones bit of having an unexpected guest join her for a song did not happen Friday. Maybe she’ll surprise fans on Saturday or Sunday — and maybe she’ll portray the real Taylor Swift as well.