Although Taylor Swift’s 2020 touring plans have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the superstar presented her fans with a special performance with the Taylor Swift City of Lover Concert, a powerful special that aired on ABC on Sunday night (May 17). Filmed last September at Paris’ L’Olympia Theater in front of an intimate audience of fans from around the world, the concert captured Swift at a particularly jubilant moment, weeks after the release of her acclaimed seventh album, Lover.
The special also offered some insight into the creation of Lover, with Swift breaking down the themes streaking throughout her longest album to date and stripping down their live presentation. “A lot of these songs on this album that just came out, I’ve never played live before!” Swift remarked early on. Although the stadium shows won’t be happening this year, Swift’s fans at least got to watch her play some of her favorite Lover songs on acoustic guitar, grand piano or as the full-band spectacle that they’re used to experiencing.
With Swift conquering primetime, here are the eight best moments from the City of Lover Concert special, presented in chronological order and with audio of each performance.
1. The Triumphant “ME!” Opening.
“You’ll never find another like me-e-e!” Swift declared to open the special, and judging from the lip-biting excitement from fans in the crowd, Paris agreed with her. As pastel colors nonchalantly exploded on the screen behind her, Swift’s fans joyfully shouted along with Lover’s lead single.
2. A Moving, Stomping “Archer.”
Before diving into “The Archer,” Swift said that the track “encapsulates the complexity of falling in love” -- yet the performance of the song sounded searing in its simplicity, the beat echoing throughout the theater and inviting the audience to clap along. When Swift pointed out Into the crowd and changed the line “Who could stay” to “You could stay,” everyone lost it, understandably.
3. “Death By a Thousand Cuts,” Brought to Life on Guitar.
With lit-up wristbands staring back at her, Swift tossed her head back during the live debut of “Death By a Thousand Cuts” and kept strumming on her acoustic guitar, seething with emotion on the bridge before steadying herself with a sly grin. No matter that she had never played the song before -- the entire crowd knew every word.
4. The “Cornelia Street” Explanation.
“I think I actually wrote this song... when I was in the bathtub!” Swift mused before playing a stripped-down version of the Lover highlight. Just as charming as the performance was Swift’s lead-up to the first note, during which she told the Paris crowd that sometimes she uses hyper-specific personal snapshots as songwriting inspiration. Cue up the lived-in “Cornelia Street”: “This is definitely one of those nostalgic ones.”
5. “The Man” Gets a Rapturous Response.
Midway through the performance, Swift performed “The Man” for the first time -- this was months before the song became an official single and received an eye-popping, gender-swapping music video. Yet the Paris audience exploded when Swift dug into the acoustic take on the shot against sexism, and cried out the “Leo in Saint Tropez” line with aplomb. Weeks after Lover’s release, the Swifties had clearly picked up on how important “The Man” was to their hero.
6. “Daylight” + Piano = Chills.
“I don't wanna look at anything else now that I saw you,” Swift sings on Lover closer “Daylight,” “I don't wanna think of anything else now that I thought of you.” If you didn’t get a hint of goosebumps when Swift opened her heart while sitting at a grand piano, and the camera cut to a young fan proudly mouthing along with the words, then you might need to re-examine your personal Swiftie card.
7. “You Need To Calm Down,” Presented in Technicolor.
“Love is so many things -- love is chaos, love is madness, love is joy. Love is, in my opinion, equality,” Swift told the Paris crowd. Anyone who disagrees with that last part? They need to calm down, Swift declared before partying with her backup dancers and dancing in front of neon visuals. Following a string of more sparse performances, the joyful full-band production of “You Need To Calm Down” made for one of the evening’s most delicious treats.
8. A Swaying, Smile-Inducing Title Track.
The special ended with Swift clearly on top of her respective world, performing “Lover” with the word scrawled across her guitar, her band shimmying behind her, a theater full of fans belting out every word. Swift couldn’t contain her grin during the song, and neither could the fans in the L’Olympia Theater that flashed onscreen (or, one would imagine, the millions of diehard supporters watching from home).