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Concert Reviews:
Taylor Swift helps fans see "Red" at Ford Field

For Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Sunday, May 5, 2013

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DETROIT -- There was as much, if not more, red in evidence at Taylor Swift's concert Saturday night, May 4, at Ford Field as there was at the Detroit Red Wings' playoff game across town at Joe Louis Arena.

And the result was much better for the first stadium show of Swift's Red Tour.

While the Wings were being blown out, Swift was blowing away a sold-out crowd of more than 48,000 with a combination of theatrical eye candy and angsty paeans over the course of 17 songs and an hour and 50 minutes. As she acknowledged at one point, "I LIKE writing break-up songs. It makes you feel better," and they certainly did the trick for fans that Swift dubbed "lyrically proficient" as they sang nearly every syllable along with her, even drowning the multi-platinum star out on more than one occasion.

And when they weren't singing, the teen and tween girl-dominated crowd was screaming for the array of special effects that populated Swift's show -- to a fault, actually.

The night certainly started on a sprint, with Swift -- accompanied by a seven-piece band, four backup singers and 14 dancers and flanked by video screens on either side, above and behind her -- emerging from behind a large red curtain for the moody but energetic "State of Grace," followed by the anthemic "Holy Ground" (with airborne dancers pounding on drums) and "Red's" spirited title track, though a 60s girl group-styled reinvention of her hit "You Belong With Me" didn't quite work.

Befitting the "Red" album's sharp turn from country to mainstream pop, Saturday's show -- which sported 11 songs from the quadruple-platinum, chart-topping set -- had all the trappings of pop divadom, from the pyrotechnics to Swift's 10 costume changes to a succession of large-scale set pieces -- an old-time film motif for "The Lucky Ones," a gothic ball setting, complete with EDM sonic touches, for "I Knew You Were Trouble," ballet trappings during "Love Story." There was a second stage towards the rear of the Ford Field floor as well, where Swift -- on a rotating and rising platform -- performed renditions of "Ours," "Everything Has Changed" with opening act Ed Sheeran (whose one-man set was as electrifying in the giant stadium as it was in January at the Fillmore Detroit) and "Begin Again" before she walked through the crowd to return to he main stage during "Sparks Fly."

Those big production ambitions were not without problems, however -- mostly stalling tactics to allow for set-up but actually created speed bumps in the flow of the show. Combined with Swift's chatty song introductions, the night moved at a plodding, episodic pace, feeling like a series of production pieces rather than a concert -- something less than the sum of its parts, in other words.

Those individual songs, however, mostly compensated, although occasionally sequencing glitches -- the far-too-quiet "Treacherous" in the next-to-last position, for instance -- were puzzling. But for most of the crowd the lingering memory will be the overall exuberance of the night as well as a bombastic, carnivalesque finale of "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" that feature fireworks, confetti, clowns, stilt walkers and Swift, dressed like a ringmaster, riding just above the crowd on an elevated ramp. Red proved to be the color of victory -- at least in that particular Detroit sports venue.

In addition to Sheeran, Swift trotted out a couple of other up and comers for Saturday's show. Country upstart Brett Eldgredge and his hit, "Don't Ya," stirred up a bit of anticipation for his upcoming debut album, while 17-year-old Internet sensation Austin Mahone drew a rapturous response for his slick, Bieber-like pop. He's definitely one will be hearing more from -- if we can hear him above those screams.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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