When Taylor Swift described the 45,000 people who came to see her perform over three nights in St. Paul this past weekend as all being “lit up” in her eyes, she wasn’t just talking in hyper-cheery hyperbole (though she did a lot of that). Nor did she mean the kind of “lit up” that Kid Rock might reference at his concerts (there was little to none of that).
Swift said each audience member had a special light about them because they really did.
A sign of the attention to detail and sense of fun paid to each of the weekend’s three very sold-out concerts, Xcel Energy Center staffers had taped translucent silicone bracelets to the backs of all 15,000 chairs Friday through Sunday. Each bracelet had LED lights inside that turned on and off and changed colors simultaneously in time with Swift’s music — there was a hearty pink when she sang “Love Story,” a deep blue for the more down-and-out “Mean,” and so on.
“It’s not never-ending darkness out there,” Swift explained of the wristbands’ purpose Saturday, looking up to the far corners of the arena.
In so many ways, those nifty light bracelets symbolized the best of what went down at the St. Paul hockey arena over the weekend. The togetherness. The synchronized precision. The clever production touches. The bejeweled attire. The onslaught of neon colors. The end of darkness. The lyrical quest for light. So. Much. Light.
In the end, Swift came off like some kind of orbiting celestial body that illuminated the Twin Cities in three two-hour bursts Friday through Sunday.
Her songs, of course, were all bright and positive. Her between-song banter urged inner beauty and go-forth kindness. And her costumes all glowed and sparkled in some form or fashion, be it the blue-spangly romper she wore for “Style” or the short, twirly dress made out of pink stringed lights during “How You Get the Girl” — the latter of which sparked a chorus of audible, awed gasps through the crowd.
Swift’s crowd emanated right back at her, too. From the teens with flashing homemade signs to the 6-year-olds with flashy Gap Kids dresses to the middle-aged dads and college-age boyfriends showing their admirably unflashy sense of pride, everyone had smiles flaring across their faces from start (“Welcome to New York”) to finish (“Shake It Off;” the set list changes very little night to night). So. Many. Smiles.
Swift no doubt glows with enthusiasm even when she’s playing, say, Bossier City, La., but she seemed to have a little extra twinkle in her smile for the Twin Cities, by far the smallest market on the 1989 Tour to snag her for more than two nights.
After basking in loud applause for nearly a full minute following “Mean,” she cheekily responded, “This is the kind of behavior that makes us want to stay in a city for three nights.”
And these were the kind of concerts that underlined why there’s so much local demand for the 25-year-old singer. Forget her transition from country music star to pop star — these shows proved she’s a rock star. She coolly executed the right moves on stage at the right times with confident swagger and military-worthy command.
The way Swift and her army of all-male dancers opened, closed, bounced and jumped around a half dozen moving doors in “I Know Places,” for instance, looked as if it required weeks of meticulous choreography. And the high-rising finale of “Shake It Off” where they were all strapped to safety harnesses on a runway stage rotating overhead looked like it required a lot of nerve.
Through it all, though, the young megastar looked like she barely broke a sweat.
So many things about the performance seemed so exact and impeccable that any imperfections seemed insignificant. But they weren’t minuscule.
When she didn’t have the otherwise prominent backup singers helping out for the acoustic version of “Clean,” Swift’s over-analyzed vocal prowess indeed sounded underwhelming (as in: both kinds of flat). When she delivered her hard-rocking makeover of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” she tried way too hard to sound and look like a rocker, donning Joan Jett-style black leather on stage, and black robber’s-mask makeup like Daryl Hannah from “Blade Runner” in the accompanying video playing on the big screen behind her.
Most disappointing of all, the celebrity-loving megastar didn’t bring out any other celebrity guests on any of the three nights in St. Paul, as she has done in a majority of cities on her tour.
What gives, Ms. Swift?! Heck, even Pittsburgh and Detroit had local guest cameos on this tour. Just a corny 8-second joke from Garrison Keillor about how the name Taylor Swift sounds like a very efficient garment maker would’ve gone a long way with us easily amused Minnesotans.
Perhaps the best thing about those guest appearances in other cities is how — for a few fleeting and in some cases goofy minutes — Swift went off script and did something different from what she’s doing every other night on tour. She never really did that in St. Paul.
If anything, the pop star known for being so human came off too robotic. But hey, why mess around when Swift seems so eager to achieve total pop-star perfection? She’s seriously so close.