Live Review: Taylor Swift, Vance Joy

29 November 2015 | 11:11 am | Hannah Story

"It's (sadly) exciting to witness a set that's been created for the female gaze."

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Just after 7pm, his name up in lights, Vance Joy opened the first show in Taylor Swift's Australian 1989 Tour run.

The largely female crowd definitely wanted a piece — that seemed to be the consensus in our part of the crowd anyway, ogling the 27-year-old former Aussie rules player, and gearing up for the lavish spectacle of Swift by crooning along to Mess Is Mine, Fire And The Flood and Georgia, complete with phones raised in the air. Joy had an easy rapport with the crowd, playing with his curls between strums, and capped off the set on ukulele for Play With Fire and the beloved Riptide.

The stadium was aglow when Taylor Swift strutted out on stage for Welcome To New York: "a gift from Taylor," a pair of plastic bracelets for each punter, lit up yellow across the entire 76,000-strong crowd. They continued to work in sync throughout the entire set, colouring the mood, the red of love scorned, the pink of love new, the strong purples of Shake It Off. They were an incredibly effective way of bringing colour and light to an entire stadium (it's a stunning sight), and also, as a bonus, made the queue to leave Sydney Olympic Park a breeze — they continued to light up as people shake, shake, shake, which means, for some, a one-hour in-car rave while they waited.

Swift was wearing the first of many midriff outfits, this time completed by a sequinned jacket. The whole set was a carefully choreographed affair, both of lights and dancers — all male. It was (sadly) exciting to witness a set that's been created for the female gaze, the male dancers masculine, slightly dorky, athletic. These are men taught to worship at the altar of Swift, sending smouldering glances her way. Swift herself was powerful, perfectly in control of everything that was going on, and quickly turning her attention to the crowd at her feet. Jacket's off and it was time for New Romantics.

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She championed the girls in the crowd. 

The record we're celebrating, and Swift herself, is by a woman for women, an easy celebration of all those cursed feelings we're told to repress, and of expression of a sort of 'true self'. She championed the girls in the crowd dancing and shouting along with abandon, and she was all positivity and sly winks in Blank Space.

To make costume changes seemingly seamless, the stage faded to black after almost every song, and the crowd was occupied by super-duper long intros, guitarists emerging from the dark to wail on their instruments, and video messages from Swift's squad, including Lena Dunham and Cara Delevingne. They talked easily about girl gangs and love, about the pressures of celebrity, and when they first heard 1989. We also saw footage of Swift with her two cats, but it was difficult to hear much of what she said because of the screams from the eager crowd. It was a crowd with relatively short attention spans, desperately reaching out to Swift, covered in fairy lights or dressed like Swift in her videos, and Swift, who spent time talking about how completely overwhelmed she was by the whole thing, knew how to keep that attention. She switched between costumes (some lit up, there was a ball gown, there was a jumpsuit), instruments (acoustic and electric guitar, keys, piano) and stage set-ups quickly (doors were here one song, gone the next, she was on the runaway stretching into the crowd, and then the front of the runway lifted off the ground). She's also attempted to put a rockier tinge onto old favourites, I Knew You Were Trouble and We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, smoke rising up from the stage, playing with the texture and key of her vocals. 

It was a crowd with relatively short attention spans, Swift knew how to keep that attention.

She went through most of 1989, each song a perfectly crafted pop gem, but it was inevitably the singles that got, however slightly, more of a crowd response, from the playful Style to the electric Bad Blood to the grand Wildest Dreams.

It was about the spectacle here, and we finished the night Out Of The Woods before we Shake It Off, as Swift's runway rose into the air, and she and her dancers brought the whole concert home with another dazzling display, confetti flying. No encore for Swift — she didn't need one, and we expect she headed home for a cup of tea and a lie down.