We are not concertgoers, my wife and I. In fact, I said, I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a concert that wasn’t a greatest hits nostalgia show, as would be made pretty clear by the list of bands I’ve seen (REO Speedwagon, Styx, Journey, Def Leppard, the Backstreet Boys that I can remember) and when I’d seen them (2000 or even more recent).
So, what’s a concert like when the band or artist is touring an individual album, instead of replaying hit after hit after hit? This is what we were so anxious to find out. The artist was Taylor Swift; the album, “reputation.”
Taylor* stopped in Minneapolis for two nights last weekend. A perfect storm of circumstances led us to U.S. Bank Stadium downtown.
(*Yeah, let’s use first names.)
First, the tour included Camila Cabello. Seriously, it starts there. Sure, way back when the tour dates were announced, we thought it’d be cool to see Taylor Swift. We tried to get my wife’s uncle (a country radio guy in Arizona) to hook us up with two free tickets,* otherwise we didn’t act on it the impulse. Months went by and the concert dissipated from our interest.
(*This will be ironic later.)
Lately, I’ve developed something of a crush on Camila. Her self-titled debut album is packed with hits and ballads that I sing along to while I work from the private confines of my home office on Fridays. I’m telling you the truth when I say there was a day at work that I watched Camila’s “Never Be The Same” video on repeat for, safely, four straight hours.* That’s Michelle Branch-level stuff for me.**
(**I use YouTube like it’s Spotify.)
About a week-and-a-half before the Reputation Stadium Tour was scheduled to come to the city, I surprised myself. I decided I was sooo into Camila’s “Camila” that I wanted to see her perform it live. Here it was, a rare moment in time when I thought an album was so good I wanted to sing it aloud with 60,000 strangers before I missed my chance. I looked up tickets, but me being uber frugal, I kept one foot lightly on the brake pedal. And then …
Second, my wife’s co-worker got four free tickets.*
(*There’s the irony.)
Ultimately, I don’t know if I would’ve bought tickets. There wasn’t all that much time between shopping around and hearing that we were in the game for a pair of free seats. All I have to go on is this: We offered to pay her for the pair, to which she refused, and we didn’t move to buy any others while we waited for her decision. The night before the concert, she said we could have them. Just like that, we were about to see the biggest tour in the world.
The biggest — that’s really the way to do this, for non-concertgoers. If ever you’re considering going to a concert, go to the biggest one. It’s probably the best performance you’ll ever see, and you never have to go to another one.* You’ve seen Taylor (and Camila and Charli XCX) live.
(*Unless, as we decided, it’s Taylor again.)
After it was over, my wife mentioned, “This must be what Sarah (a friend) felt like after seeing the Beyonce concert.” I bet so. Pick your preferred taste — Taylor’s mine — it’s about as good as you’re ever going to do.
Taylor was awesome. Label an artist a prolific hitmaker because all you do is listen to their music in your earbuds. You don’t experience all of an artist until you see her live. Camila was great. Her voice is as good live as it is on her album. It won’t be long before she’s headlining her own show.* I got everything out of Camila I hoped I would**, but I left thinking about Taylor — specifically, damn, she was born to be a performer.
(*This is what I found most unbelievable about the tour. One of Taylor’s opening acts won Artist and Video of the Year at the VMAs in the same year as said tour.)
(**Including a T-shirt.)
In the local newspaper, the music critic wrote that Taylor seemed happier than three years ago. “More confident and super self-aware, she seemed more comfortable with herself,” he wrote, “and more assured in her musical changes.” I didn’t see her three years ago, but anyone who saw the show knows what he’s talking about. She does seem very happy. She has a ton of fun on stage. I loved the faces she’d make while she danced. Her performance was full of playful attitude, a great personality.
We aren’t suddenly concertgoers now. We went to the biggest show on the planet by the biggest artist in the universe and went for free. It felt like we committed a felony having that much fun for no money at all,* but that doesn’t mean we’re going to go see Iggy Azalea now,** or even Ariana Grande. We don’t have to. We saw the best there is.
(*Beer and merch did cost money.)
(**Only mentioned because Charli XCX performed “Fancy.” I’d sooner go to Ariana, but, again, I won’t.)
Now we know the answer to what a concert looks like when it’s an artist touring one album. Instead of walking away thinking that band was great*, we went away reminded how great that entire album is. I liked that. I really like “Delicate” a lot, but it’s days later and the songs I’m singing are secondary to the radio hits — they’re “Don’t Blame Me,” “I Did Something Bad” and “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.”
(*Was great, back when they were releasing albums.)
It also occurred to me that Taylor could go on a greatest hits tour today and it wouldn’t be lacking content. She mixed in a handful of her biggest bops, which really riled the crowd, but she also took an intimate moment to strap on the acoustic guitar and bring “Begin Again” out of her library. All in the 40,000-person crowd knew every single word. It was surreal. It was awesome.
It’ll be the first time, when she does do that greatest hits parade, decades down the road, that I’ll be able to say I saw Taylor when she was touring her albums — when she was at the peak of her powers. It feels pretty damn cool to have done that.