If you’ve seen a Taylor Swift concert prior to this summer, you know she doesn’t mess around. With her infectious stage presence, impressive musicianship, and mesmerizing stage setup, the pop star leaves you wanting more the second her show ends.
But last August, the now 28-year-old singer declared that “the old Taylor is dead” in her eerie single “Look What You Made Me Do,” the beginning of a new era for Swift. Introducing a production-heavy, moodier vibe with her sixth album, Reputation, it seemed Swift’s next tour may be a different experience than her past productions. And it is, but in a way that doesn’t overshadow what she’s done before. Instead, the Reputation Tour shows the Taylor Swift she has meant to be all along.
As someone who had the opportunity to catch every Swift headlining tour in her country days (Fearless, Speak Now and Red), I knew very well what the old Taylor was like on stage. She had an innocence that made her feel like your friend, but there was always this boldness that, while endearing, felt a bit juxtaposed to her good-girl, curly haired image. It always worked, though, and each production was incredible — but it all made sense once I saw the Reputation Tour.
The larger-than-life show is the culmination of everything Taylor has done in concert, meshing her talent with her prowess in a nearly two-hour spectacle. While reports of not-so-great ticket sales have loomed, that’s certainly not the “reputation” the tour should get. Whatever the stats, here area some reasons why Swift’s latest tour is the pinnacle of her career.
1. The production isn’t just massive — it’s built for a superstar.
Swift’s sets have always been elaborate, but the visuals on this tour are on another level. Massive screens display 2-D images that almost feel 3-D, and the things that are 3-D — gigantic snakes, an oversized seesaw, a (working) fountain — almost make you ask, “How is that real?”
2. She’s the most comfortable on a stage in her overall career.
Confidence has never been an issue for Swift when it comes to being on stage, but she used to spend more time soaking up the crowd’s screams. Now she spends more time smiling her way through her flawless production. There was never a moment where her conviction wavered as she’d bounce from intense choreography to playing guitar — on her own.
3. The video monologues are as self-aware as they are entrancing.
The most impactful video comes before Swift’s encore, titled “Why She Disappeared.” While the visuals themselves are fun to watch and the story she tells feels like an age-old fairytale, the video is actually a lot deeper than what it appears to be.
4. Her vulnerability makes her message relatable.
Though Swift’s interim videos show images of herself, her sentiments are so introspective that they result in some self-reflection of your own accord as you wait for her to return to the stage. But Swift shares the same kind of meaningful messages before playing her empowering song “Long Live” on piano. At the opening night of the tour in Glendale, Arizona, she elaborated on what she went through while making Reputation, and what that word means to her — which made the message of the whole show even more meaningful.
“I learned a really important lesson that I’ve been telling you from the stage for about 10 years, but I never had to learn it so harshly myself and that lesson has to do with how much you value your reputation. And I think that the lesson is that you shouldn’t care so much if you feel misunderstood by a lot of people who don’t know you, as long as you feel understood by the people who do know you.”
5. She acknowledges Swifties’ growth along with her own.
At her Gillette Stadium show on July 27, Swift mentioned that she’s been touring since she was 15. Now 28, that means she’s had many years to connect with fans — and grow up with them. “Seeing people grow up in the crowd, or in meet and greets and stuff, looking out and seeing somebody who I met when they were 10 and now they’re a full-grown adult — that is wild,” she says. “Or somebody coming up to me and saying, ‘I’ve been listening to your music since I was 12,’ and, you know, now they’re a grown up. It’s just never ever going to feel like, ‘Oh yeah, that seems normal to me.’ It’s always going to seem deeply interesting and wild … I definitely think that I tried to keep my expectations very realistic when it came to thinking, ‘You know, I could be a phase for some people.’ I just appreciate every moment, so when somebody comes up to me and says ‘I’m still listening to your music,’ to me that means that it’s lasted through all the other phases in their lives.”
— Samantha (@manthapaige13) July 28, 2018
6. The old Taylor isn’t dead, she’s just grown up.
“And in the death of her reputation, she felt truly alive” are the final words fans see upon the show’s end. While it provides a perfect close to the story of the show, Swift’s performance was physical proof that she means it. As her music has evolved, she has too, but Swift hasn’t lost sight of what got her there or the passionate performer she was in the beginning. This is the reputation Taylor Swift — and her fans — have been waiting for.