Taylor Swift's new production puts the show in showstopper.
With all the set pieces, costumes and choreography, the concert was almost as much a play as it was a country music concert.
The country and pop superstar — wearing a shimmering gold dress and black boots — rose up from under the stage for “Sparks Fly,” the first number of 17 she played over the next two hours to a sold-out crowd of more than 15,000 at Qwest Center Omaha.
It was the first show of a sold-out, two-night stand in town that kicked off her tour in the United States.
“Well, good evening, Omaha, Nebraska,” she said to screams and applause. “I'm Taylor. And welcome to the first night of the ‘Speak Now World Tour.'”
With her lucky number 13 painted on her right hand and “you gotta keep your head up but you can let your hair down” (from the song “Keep Your Head Up” by Swift-favorite Andy Grammer) written down her left arm, Swift played the concert backed by nine musicians and singers and eight dancers.
Each song, from “Mine” to “Mean” to “Fifteen,” was accompanied by a faint buzz, which came from the crowd singing along with Swift. Mostly young girls accompanied by parents, they were huge fans, which they showed with screams, applause, singing and home-made signs.
The air was filled with adulation for the singer, who often stood onstage between songs just soaking it all in.
The stage, full of red curtains and gilded rails, appeared as if it was stripped from an early 20th century theater, which made sense considering the concert was so much like a play.
It was a huge, entertaining production and all those moving parts — both the stage itself and all of the dancers and musicians — meant you always had something to keep your eye on.
Especially so when Swift made her way through the arena. After “Speak Now,” Swift walked through the crowd to a small stage in the back of the arena, which was decorated with a light-up tree. She played several songs there, including “Fearless” on ukulele.
During the closing song, “Love Story,” she stepped from the stage onto a small balcony, which lifted off and flew over the crowd to every corner of the arena.
Other set pieces included a porch, church pews, trees, snow, a couch, large bells, a bridge and others. They were usually there to accompany some sort of theatrical act for the dancers, including a wedding during “Speak Now” and a winter scene during “Back To December.”
Swift's clothes changed more often than the stage did. She wore at least nine dresses throughout the night and her band and dancers donned different costumes for nearly every tune.
My complaint was the length of the show. In two hours, she only played 17 songs, five of which weren't on her new record.
Where were “Tim McGraw,” “Picture To Burn,” “Teardrops On My Guitar” or any other of Swift's hits?
She played nearly all of her latest album, “Speak Now,” and, coupled with the big production, I think that left little room for other tunes.
Swift's voice was strong throughout the set, especially during “Haunted,” which was the most energetic performance and biggest production of the night.
She was able to hold her own, but I wish that her backup singers would have let her sing by herself a little more often. It seemed that everywhere she turned, they were right behind her even though she didn't need them.
For example, there was an intimate, quiet moment during the encore when Swift was singing “Fifteen” by herself, which was ruined when her backup singers and band joined in.
The huge production (certainly one of the biggest I've ever seen) coupled with Swift's megahit songs mean this tour will be one of the top draws of the year, especially if they pull off near-flawless concerts like they did in Omaha on Friday.
That kind of superstardom doesn't appear to keep Swift from being down-to-earth. She blew kisses to fans, gave hugs and even planted a kiss on the cheek of a young boy that gave her flowers.
For all the adulation Omaha gave her, she threw just as much back.
“I don't think you've ever looked more beautiful than you have tonight, Omaha,” she said. “Thanks for hanging out with me.”
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