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Concert Reviews:
Swift surprises make for special show at Ford Field

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Sunday, May 31, 2015

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DETROIT -- It's safe to say that most of the 51,000 at Ford Field on Saturday night, May 30, felt it was special enough just to have Taylor Swift in town.

But the mega-selling country crossover/pop idol managed to make it even more momentous.

Early on in the two-hour and 10-minute show, Swift extolled her special relationship with Detroit -- how she sang the national anthem before a Detroit Lions game at the stadium when she was 16 years old, and how she's played Ford Field twice before. "I took into account, I have to have Detroit in the very beginning (of her tour)...because Detroit is so incredible to me. I better show up with some tricks up my sleeve and some surprises."

Yeah, yeah. Bet she says that to all the cities.

But on Saturday, Swift delivered.

First up was Imagine Dragons' frontman Dan Reynolds for a thumping rendition of his band's "Radioactive" that was tucked into the middle of the set. And if that wasn't enough Swift also brought a couple of her supermodel buddies -- Gigi Hadid and Martha Martha Hunt -- on stage for a walk down the long gangway that street to the middle of the Ford Field floor during "Style."

So it was not a typical night. But the 1989 World Tour show in general is not typical of what Swift has done in the past, either.

Having made a successful full-scale transition into pop with the "1989" album, which has sold more than seven million copies worldwide since its Oct. 27 release, Swift has given the same makeover to her concert. There were no banjos or fiddles in the band, and not a hint of twang in any of the arrangements; older favorites such as "Love Story" and "I Knew You Were Trouble" were treated to vibey, ambient makeovers, while "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" was given a harder rocking crunch.

And Swift was particularly interested in partying like it was "1989," with 15 of the night's 19 songs hailing from the new album.

The 1989 show's look and production reflected the change as well. The cowboy boots and long fringed skirts are long gone -- on both Swift and her fans. The concert's nine costumes hewed towards sparkle and leather, and her moves and poses reflected the models she`s been keeping company with. The sleek staging was dominated by a massive rear-stage video screen, lasers, some light pyrotechnics and elaborate choreograpy with Swift's crew of a dozen male dancers. Most compelling were "Blank Space's" use of portable window frames with shades which were used to silhouette the dancers, a network of doors Swift and company moved in and out of during "I Know Places," and the moving, elevating gangway that Swift used to good effect during her solo acoustic version of "You Are in Love," "Clean," "Love Story" and "Shake It Off."

Costume changes, meanwhile, were covered by videos of Swift pales such as Hadid, Hunt, Lena Dunham, Selana Gomez, Haim and others extolling her virtues, as well as a clip of Swift wresting with her two uncooperative cats.

It was more Madonna than Martina, a confident and polished pop spectacle. But it also made for a show that was more episodic than smoothly flowing; most of the songs felt like their own self-contained performances, and ballad "Wildest Dreams" was a bit too slow to come as last in the set as it did, even to set up the wham-bam finale of "Out of the Woods" and "Shake It Off."

But it's also safe to say that none of Swift's Ford Field BFFs minded that. Saturday's show was another chapter in her own love story with her Detroit fans, even if it did raise the bar for what she'll have to do to make her next visit even more special.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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