[This show review comes compliments of the the Mercury‘s sister pub The Stranger, but a ton of Portlanders went up to Seattle for this, so it seems relevant. –eds.]
Lyrical genius and chart-topper Dr. Taylor Swift was inescapable this weekend as she set up shop at Seattle’s Lumen Field for two sold-out performances of the Eras Tour, a three-and-a-half-hour pop opera in which she sings through some of the world’s most beloved albums of the past 17 years AKA her entire discography.
Not only did she twice fill the 70,000 seats of the stadium with sequins-wearing Swifties, but hundreds more camped outside or watched from their stadium-view apartments and online live streams.
Hundreds of seattle swifties who couldn’t afford the $1800 nosebleed tickets have gathered to listen from outside the stadium pic.twitter.com/mA3HrKs5rF
— Danny Dae Kim (@daeshikjr) July 23, 2023
Even if you avoided the Ticketmaster war, Swift and her ubiquity confronted every Seattleite who dared go outside this weekend.
Street entrepreneurs hawked light-up cowgirl-hat-tiara-hybrids with feather trim around the rims. Swifties—in fringe, glitter, and glittery-fringe—filled the light rail to the brim, out-showing the usual weekend Mariners game crowd. Bars and cafes crafted Swift-inspired drinks—anything pink got a punny name inspired by the album Lover and anything with warm, fall flavors referenced Jake Gyllenhaal’s sister’s scarf or something. If you know, you know.
Inside the stadium, the concert was mass at a megachurch. It was the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl after your favorite team made a huge comeback. It was “cry night” at that weird summer camp your friend told you wasn’t that religious. It was what I assume Gwyneth Paltrow would call an “energy orgasm.”
But the concert was also karaoke night at your neighborhood dive where the bartender knows your order. It was your high school’s horse girl performing some musical theater cover at your graduation. It was singing in the car with your lifelong friend, Taylor.
Firefly Catching Days
At a pre-Taylor event near the stadium, two sisters-in-law, Janna and Morgan, told me they drove more than 10 hours from Montana to see the show. Janna said she just saw the concert in Denver the weekend before.
Morgan said when she got her first car, she didn’t have an aux cord, but she didn’t need one. A copy of Swift’s 1989 album lived in her CD player. The album, with hits such as “Style” and “Blank Space,” defined her teen years.
Janna, a few years older, had a similar experience with Swift’s album Red. My high school friends would say the same about Reputation, which came out during my senior year.
“It’s worth it,” Morgan said of the long drive and the expensive tickets. “She’s been with us our whole lives.”
Thousands of Swifties also seem willing to spend a month’s rent on concert tickets given the fact that fans bought resale tickets for about $1,600 on average. That’s more than six times higher than the average resale price for other shows on SeatGeek.
The Eras Tour proves that nostalgia sells. According to the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers shell out cash more freely when they feel nostalgic. This seems especially true in a time of accelerated change, civil unrest, and global health disaster. We find comfort in looking back when the future feels so uncertain, making nostalgia a powerful marketing tool. Think Eras Tour, Barbie movie, the resurgence of Y2K fashion, and that new touchscreen flip phone that I want so desperately.
Swift isn’t just selling concert tickets or a sick-ass show, she’s selling our girlhoods, complete with friendship bracelets and heart-shaped sunglasses. That’ll be $1,600 plus fees, thank you.
Swift’s Musical Scrapbook
Swift is uniquely positioned to bring young women like me back to our childhoods since radio stations played her songs (sometimes to death—looking at you, “Shake it Off”) from the time I was still learning to read to the present, where I read slightly better. For me, the concert felt deeply personal, like my life flashing before my eyes with that near-death adrenaline to match. And I’m sure it felt similarly personal to about 70,000 other people, minus supportive dads, I guess. It amounted to a musical scrapbook, taking Swifties through nine out of her 10 studio albums, and the lives we lived to their beat.
At around 8 pm on Saturday, a procession of airy flags ushered a concealed Swift onstage while the singer hummed the “Miss Americana” line, “It’s been a long time coming,” referring to her five-year touring hiatus. As the flags soared like a Cirque du Soleil show, sound bites of many younger Taylor’s shouted out the titles of her previous albums. Then, when the flags finally revealed her, Swift hopped immediately into celebrating Lover, a delightfully bubble-gummy album that was the first record she released after becoming free from one of the biggest villains in the Swiftiverse, Big Machine Records.
Lover came out at the end of my first year of college. I could practically taste the vodka cran when she played “Cruel Summer.”
One of the singles on Lover came out the day after one of the worst days of my life (not being dramatic lol). I dragged myself up Roosevelt that morning with “You Need To Calm Down,” of all songs, blasting through my headphones to keep me sane—I had the lyrics memorized by 10 am. I listened to “The Archer” every night on the bus ride home from my communication class at North Seattle College. The song was perfect for dramatically staring out the window during a summer sunset.
Next, Swift brought us back to her high school days with her 2008 album, Fearless. She wore a silver fringe dress and knee-high boots, shimming around the stage with her guitar.
Fearless was the first album I ever owned. One of the girls in my neighborhood, Jackie got it for me as a birthday present. As I stood there in Lumen Field, Swift took me back to my days of playing with the wooden doll house Jackie’s dad made for her and the time I got in trouble for bullying her little sister (sorry, Lauren!). I played the “You Belong With Me” music video frame by frame in my head when Swift sang the iconic not-like-other-girls anthem.
The next stop on the nostalgia tour was Evermore. Evermore, the sister album to Folklore, came out with very little warning in December of 2020. Swift surprised the audience by bringing HAIM onstage to sing their Evermore collab, “No Body, No Crime.” Later, she sat at a mossy piano and played her heart-wrenching ballad, “Champagne Problems,” another favorite for Swifties with a flair for the dramatic.
I listened to Evermore for the first time bundled up in a winter jacket and beanie in Cowen Park. I felt a pang of longing for an old “situationship” as I pumped my legs on the swing set to “‘Tis the Damn Season.”
The album is known to be one of Swift’s most emotionally vulnerable, like a trauma dump post on a private Instagram account. But as an unmedicated girly who just celebrated her 21st birthday in quarantine, I, too, was sharing too much of my personal struggles online. She’s just like me for real.
Swift brought Lumen to Reputation, the most hype section of the concert in my humble opinion.
Reputation fell under scrutiny when Swift first released it. It totally shook up her good girl image for the moms who saw her as a role model, but for people who saw her as a bland, white feminist with a victim complex, her new scorched-earth attitude came off as cringe and whiny.
But I re-fell in love with Taylor Swift when I first heard “Look What You Made Me Do” one morning on my mom’s laptop. My high school girlfriend and I spent hours singing “I Did Something Bad” in her Jeep, only pausing to order energy drinks at Dutch Bros. The true sapphic suburban experience.
She then reverted back to 2010 with hits from the nostalgic, fantastical world of Speak Now. In a pastel ball gown, she sang “Enchanted,” and “Long Live,” a fan-favorite anthem she added to the setlist after Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) dropped earlier this month.
The mini-set transported me to the back seat of my elementary school best friend’s older sister’s car. She would drive us to football games and make us listen to her sing “Sparks Fly” over and over again. She was not a very good singer.
To honor the Red era, Swift played pop staples “22,” “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.” She also stood center stage and sang through the entirety of “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault).” Yes, the Swifties knew every word of that one too.
Next, she took us to the Folklore cabin, an imaginary cabin she pretended to live in during the lonely, early days of the pandemic. The cabin is probably somewhere in Washington State, she said, which is cool. Folklore came out during the summer of 2020 and I have assigned every track on that album to a different love interest who changed the chemistry of my brain for the worse.
After a pitstop in 1989, Swift treated the Saturday audience to an acoustic rendition of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” and “Everything Has Changed.”
Finally, she finished the night out with Midnights. Midnights came out last year, followed by a surprise second half of the album called the (3am Edition). The album returned to her poppy style after her time flexing her honors English brain in Folklore and Evermore.
Midnights supplied the perfect song for late-night cry sessions when my brain starts rehashing largely regrettable relationships I had with men in their 30s as a teenager. I also found my yearning anthem in “Hits Different,” which I listen to every time I want to double-text my Instagram crush who ghosted me last month. Since the album is so recent, it does not carry the same nostalgia as some of her others, but seeing a Swiftie dad dance with his toddler daughters to “Karma” at the end of the night let me rest assured that the album will be the backtrack to many core-memories for younger Swifties.
All told, the concert crammed nearly two decades of memories into a spiffy three-and-a-half-hour show. But was the high-energy stroll down memory lane worth the cost? And do we need to buy our memories when we could just as easily make mud potions in a sandbox to reconnect with our inner child?
Many Swifties told The Stranger they recognized the financial foolishness in buying such expensive concert tickets, but playing dress up, stringing beads into friendship bracelets, and hearing the music that made them who they are today is well worth the cost. And there are plenty of smart Swifties that know their favorite pop star is not actually their childhood best friend (even though she’s known to invite fans for freshly baked cookies at her home). And they know that their girlhood is not a commodity they can purchase from a billionaire-to-be. Call it uncritical, call it Swiftie-derangement syndrome, but I love when girls have fun, so I trust them when they say the Eras Tour is priceless.