Don’t believe the notion that the “old Taylor Swift is dead.”
Despite what she sings in the recent single “Look What You Made Me Do,” the death of her old self is greatly exaggerated. On Friday, in her first of two nights at U.S. Bank Stadium, it was the same old well-mannered, fan-connecting, over-the-top-ambitious Taylor Swift.
There were fireworks and fountains, multiple stages and a multitude of dancers, and snakes everywhere. Not real ones like music lovers might have seen this week at Alice Cooper at the Ordway or Hairball at the State Fair. No, inflatable snakes and a floating reptile to transport Swift from stage to stage and animated and animatronic snakes and a bejeweled snake wrapped around her handheld microphone.
The biggest popular music star of this century, Swift, 28, bemoans being assailed by liars, enemies and the media. In other words, snakes.
Enough with the detractors and distractions. As only she can, Swift, an evolving star for a dozen years now, had an intimate discussion Friday with more than 40,000 fans in a mammoth stadium about the freedom, as she put it, that her fans give her to experiment musically.
In concert, the new Taylor may have a different sound, but she is like the old Taylor — highly personal, super-friendly and intent on delivering wow moments.
She seemed happier than three years ago in her three shows at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. More confident and super self-aware, she seemed more comfortable with herself and a more accomplished dancer. And more assured in her musical changes.
Her new sound is more synthesizer-oriented and EDM-based, with hip-hop influences, instead of being built around acoustic guitar or piano. Those sounds dominated her concert, which was devoted largely to material from last year’s synth-heavy “Reputation” album.
Taking the stage after Joan Jett’s 1980 punkish smash “Bad Reputation” was blasted throughout the stadium, Swift set out to bury her bad reputation, a rep none of the loyal Swifties in the stadium subscribe to. To be sure, the music is darker, less melodic and less hummable. Her face may have been menacing during “I Did Something Bad” from “Reputation” but all the flamethrowers, fireworks and dancers made it more fun than confessional.
When it came time for “Look What You Made Me Do,” the humor and absurdity of the presentation — Swift sitting on a throne surrounded by snakes on a tilting stage — lightened the mood of the music, as did comedian Tiffany Haddish on video in mid-song answering a phone call and explaining why Swift couldn’t come to the phone “because the old Taylor is dead.”
No she isn’t. Because the old Taylor provided some of the best moments in the nearly two-hour production: the emphatic, festive treatment of 2012’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” the solo piano reading of 2010’s “Long Live” and the confetti-bathed celebration of 2014’s “Shake It Off,” in which her pure pop giddiness couldn’t be denied.
That’s how she earned her reputation and reinforced it on Friday with the best show of her career.