I can remember exactly when I first fell in love with the sweet, quirky music of Taylor Swift. I found out about the young American singer-songwriter the same way I found out about Twilight – on Facebook. To be specific, on the Facebook bumper sticker app. For a while, my best friend and I fell in love with adding little quotes and pretty pictures to our profiles, and I kept seeing a proliferation of stickers which read like lyrics but which I’d never heard before. By the end of 2007, I was tearing my way through Stephanie Meyer’s novels and playing TSwift’s Love Story on repeat. Every time a new album came out, I’d stick it on my MP3 player and learn the words off by heart – Fearless and Forever and Always and Better Than Revenge and so many songs that made sense, somehow. They were catchy and they spoke to me and they had that country edge which I’ve always enjoyed. And when I first met Stacey, she rolled her eyes at my embarrassing, Radio 1 musical taste. But when Red came out, Stacey finally caved, and she started listening to the album too.
I spent months scouring the internet for any hint that TSwift might be bringing the Red tour to the UK. After 50+ dates in the US, and then Australia, and Asia, and Europe – finally, she came to London last week. Stacey and I had tickets – and it was the most amazing spectacle I’d ever seen. I’d never been to The O2 before, but we had seats directly opposite the stage, pretty much as high up as we could get. It was a long way back from the stage – but the view was just amazing, and the sound quality was superb too. As for the gig – I find myself smiling every time I think about it. Stace and I had already looked up the set list, but the whole experience was completely different to what I was expecting! From the opening strains of State of Grace (this is a state of grace, this is the worthwhile fight. love is a ruthless game, unless you play it good and right) through to the banjo-led twang of Mean (someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city, and all you’re ever gonna be is mean) and the heartbreak of Red (Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street) all of my favourite songs were just that much better live. But the songs that had me choked up, the ones that really got through to me, were ones that I never expected.
Maybe we got lost in translation, maybe I asked for too much, and maybe this thing was a masterpiece ’til you tore it all up.
Like how You Belong With Me had been given a 50’s feel with the backing singers and cute dresses and choreography. Or how I’d never really heard the lyrics to Holy Ground, despite listening to the song over and over again. And how Taylor is just as friendly, as coy, as playful as everything online makes her seem. More than once, I felt myself welling up, overwhelmed but how many people were all singing along to these songs that are about love and loss and heartbreak and moving on – it felt very apt, somehow, and slightly painful but also incredibly right.
You had it figured out since you were in school. Everybody loves pretty, everybody loves cool.
And the production was just unreal. From the videos which backlit the stage – including a carousel which looked so real I spent a good 30 seconds wondering if it actually was a set – to flying stages, moving walkways and some amazing dancers and musicians. Add on top of that the fact that Taylor Swift’s special guest was Emeli Sande – who I absolutely loved and sung Next To Me – and it was pretty much one of the most perfect gigs I have ever been too.
We blocked the noise with the sound of ‘I need you’, and for the first time I had something to lose.
We actually went on the penultimate night of the Red tour – the t-shirt that Stace bought confirmed that Monday was the last but one night of 79 gigs. That’s crazy – Taylor, her band and crew performed that show 79 times, never the same show though, because each night had a different special guest. 79 times, 79 crowds, Lord knows how many rehearsals and practise sessions and sound checks. But what a show, what an experience. I wish I could go and see it all over again. Hopefully Taylor’s now going to have a break from performing and will maybe start writing again – as much as I love Red, and I do – I cannot wait to hear what she does next. And if she does decide to come back to the UK to perform again, I will definitely be returning to watch her perform.