Mid-way through the first of two sold-out nights at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey Friday night (July 10), Taylor Swift shared an enticing proposition with fans: Want to be my friend?
“There are two requirements,” she explained slowly with a wide grin in between loud audience cheers. “You have to like me, at least a little. …[And] you have to want to spend time with me…. That’s why I’m so lucky and so happy in this moment. I’m surrounded by 60,000 of my friends in a stadium in Jersey.”
That she was: This is the woman who, over this last album cycle, has perfected the art of being both very, very famous yet still retaining a BFF-esque, tell-each-other-all-our-secrets-and-hopes-and-fears intimacy with her fans. The obvious love Swifties have for her comes back at them in concert, with the singer radiating joy and gratitude throughout her nearly two-and-a-half hours on stage.
Her show is the obvious end result of Operation 1989 World Domination. Every song off the album was played (including two of the bonus tracks!), and while she did break out the guitar for a few old hits it was mostly a pop princess coronation: bombastic and stirring and all her own. Welcome to the pop stratosphere, Taylor. It’s been waiting for you.
Below, check out 10 highlights from her first night in the NYC area.
1. Swift is known to bring out a special guest (or four), but there was still genuine shock when she announced one of the evening’s cameos: The Weeknd. He joined the singer for a performance of his summer hit “Can’t Feel My Face.” Is it any surprise everyone rocked out (perhaps no one more than Swift herself)?
2. Speaking of rocking out, Swift had a special treat up her sleeve when it came to her old material. She gave a few of the tunes a rock makeover to fit more in line with the music of 1989, most memorably on “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.”
3. One of the most innovative aspects of Swift’s latest tour is the inclusion of bracelets with LED lights, given to everyone as the walk in. Throughout the show, they lit up in different colors and patterns that let the entire stadium be part of the experience, whether that be a white glow for a moving sing-along of “You Are in Love,” or flashing blue and red lights for any number of her upbeat tunes.
4. Swift talked with the crowd throughout, and the personality that makes millions wish she was their big sister was on display. During the excellent ’80s power ballad version of “Love Story,” Swift explained of her writing process with wide-eyed wonder, “I heard this story about these two people in love and they just, they just died! Both of them!” which is a fairly succienct way to sum up Romeo & Juliet, to be honest.
Another quick gem was an exaggerated literal wink to the audince after the line “his hands are in my hair/ his clothes are in my room” from “Wildest Dreams,” which was possibly the most charming split-second moment of the entire evening.
5. Vulnerability in front of thousands can’t be easy, but the singer spoke at length about a variety of topics related to self-confidence, empowerment, love, and friendship. Movingly sharing the fact that a mistake doesn’t define you proved the perfect segueway into “Clean,” where Swift, as confident and powerful as she’s ever been, soaked up the love.
6. Expertly produced “Blank Space” was equally as fun as its popular music video, with Swift on the spot creating various looping backing noises, such as a drum beat that gave the tune a stadium-ready “We Will Rock You”-esque edge.
7. Swift gave new meaning to #SquadGoals during “Style,” when she brought out the world champion U.S. Women’s Soccer Team to walk the runway, waving flags and brimming with pride. (Heidi Klum also got her strut on during the number.)
8. Of course the real “Who’s it going to be?” whispers happened as the thumping opening notes of “Bad Blood” filled the stadium. Music video alums Hailee Steinfeld, Lena Dunham, Lily Aldrige and Gigi Hadid joined their pal on stage for a attitude-filled catwalk that dissolved quickly into giggles and hugs. A charming Dunham was actually seen throughout the show (along with other famous faces like Karlie Kloss and Selena Gomez) in pre-taped video messages explaining what it’s like to be friends with Taylor. Spoiler alert: You better love cats.
9. Toward the end of the show, Swift took a seat behind a piano for a gorgeous version of the aforementioned “Wildest Dreams” mashed up with Speak Now treasure “Enchanted.” Heartbreaking and hopeful all at once, the tune is a poignant ode to romance, which, Swift explained, has been the core theme of her songwriting process her whole career.
10. Fans couldn’t possibly leave before hearing about Swift’s ex man and his new girlfriend, so of course “Shake It Off” provided the perfect triumphant closer, with Swift and her dancers rocking out on a lift raised about the crowd as everyone’s braclets proceeded to go nuts with various colors. Haters gonna hate, Swift’s gonna shake in front of an actual explosion of confetti and fireworks; the picture-perfect embodiment of her lyrics and message — not to mention one hell of a metaphorical mic drop.