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Concert Reviews:
Palace Spectacle Does Not Suit Taylor Swift

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Saturday, March 27, 2010

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AUBURN HILLS -- Situated at an auxiliary stage towards the back of the Palace floor on Friday night (March 26), Taylor Swift confessed to the crowd of 14,000-plus that "at one time in my life my biggest fear was not fitting in at school."

That's clearly a distant memory these days.

At the first of her two sold-out weekend shows at the Palace, the multi-platinum selling, Grammy Award-winning Swift was the belle of the ball. The queen of the prom. Class president and captain of (insert team name here). Everyone in the arena loved Swift on Friday night -- including the star herself, which made for a curious kind of dynamic as the evening wore on.

In her songs -- and especially her abundant hits -- the 20-year-old Swift is the earthy everygirl, unapologetically voicing the pangs of young love and pain of broken romances and guys who done her wrong and who, in return, get their names in her songs (not in flattering fashion) and their pictures burned. That's made a connection with fans that, in turn, has vaulted her from country notoriety to pop stardom.

In concert, however, the modest dreamer and genial outcast turned into a Madonna or Britney Spears with a twang, working her way through an indulgent two hours padded with theatrical set pieces and the kind of preening affectations that would make the popular girls she sang about proud.

Swift signaled that direction at the start of the show, changing outfits in the middle of "You Belong to Me" and then standing at the end of a T-shaped ramp that jutted from the main stage, open-mouthed and basking in the applause, milking the moment for nearly as long as the song itself lasted. And it was hardly the only time she did that during an oddly paced two hours whose 16 songs could have been delivered in far quicker and impactful fashion.

There were video segments -- some of which Swift employed when she opened for Keith Urban last June at the Palace -- that built in time for the show's nine costume changes. There were long, momentum-breaking strolls through the crowd, dispensing hugs and handslaps as she traveled from the grandstand, where she sang "Hey Stephen," to the second stage for "15" and "Tim McGraw," and back to the main stage for "White Horse."

And while the show started solidly enough as Swift and her seven-piece band -- occasionally joined by six dancers -- rolled through "Our Song," "Tell Me Why," "Teardrops on My Guitar," "Fearless" and "Forever & Always," the final third lurched through the Edwardian costume ball of "Love Story" and a histrionic performance of "You're Not Sorry," during which a piano-playing Swift gyrated like Tori Amos or Fiona Apple and slipped in a refrain of Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around.../...Comes Around." And during "Should've Said No," Swift and fiddler Caitlin Evanson staged a "fight" on the opposite sides of garbage can-shaped drums, exhausting each other (and the novelty of the routine) before Swift drenched herself beneath a curtain of water falling from above the stage.

It was a grand kind of spectacle, but one that was disconnected from any sense of flow and from the fact that Swift's body of work, even at this early juncture of her career, is strong enough to do without the conceptual mess. It felt like a bid to fit in, this time with all the other pop divas, rather than continue the individual path Swift has pursued with her music.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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