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Live Review: Taylor Swift

9 December 2015 | 1:24 pm | Ben E Webbs

"Swift is a contemporary cultural phenomenon — a bonafide world famous pop star in a large scale production."

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Have you ever wondered just how loud the shrieking fans got before The Beatles looked at each other and said, "Let's not play live any more then, lads"? Odds are they sounded something like last night's audience at the Adelaide leg of Taylor Swift's 1989 World Tour.

Of course, public address systems have come along way since 1966. In 2015, Taylor Swift's music is fueled by larger-than-life electronic sounds — hers are anthemic, mid-tempo pop songs filled with enormous synth pads, reverberous snares and that gargantuan, impossibly low bass. There's no conceivable way that the Entertainment Centre's capacity crowd could have overpowered the sound coming off stage.

Swift is a contemporary cultural phenomenon — a bonafide world famous pop star in a large scale production. The spectacle did not disappoint. There were copious costume changes, inspired choreography, dancers with undeniable skill and precision, and an impressive light show. We are struck by the inventive way shows of this scale can involve the entire audience — even the cheapest seats ('cheapness' being a relative term here) were gifted a wristband that blinked and flashed with various coloured LEDs in time to the music, rendering the Entertainment Centre's innards, at various points, a glittering metropolis (Welcome To New York), an underwater dreamscape (Enchanted/Wildest Dreams), and a fiery volcano (We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together).

A hydraulic catwalk spanned the length of the arena, raising and rotating to bring Swift and her ten dancers closer to those fans who chose not to shell out a week's pay to be in the front row. Performers and props disappeared and reappeared on stage via various automated trapdoors while short videos featuring Tay Tay's famous gal pals and pet felines played on the jumbo screens. The crowd — be they starry-eyed tweens, weary-eyed parents or self-aware hipsters, loved it.

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It was about an hour before anything discernable as 'organic' was heard, and that was Swift on acoustic guitar. All other sounds were processed and compressed well beyond any semblance of being live. Swift's five-piece band and four backing singers were obviously playing, but needn't have been. Volume aside, the songs were rarely separable from their studio counterparts.

Blank Space came early in the set, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together was an unabashed rock moment complete with leather pants and White Stripian visuals. Love Story was reinterpreted to more closely resemble the sonics of the 1989 material. Shake It Off was the inevitable finale, and yet it left us somewhat empty... Imagine how huge and awesome and life-affirming that exuberant horn melody at the song's apex might have sounded, played by a living, breathing brass section?