Taylor Swift had not brought a tour to the UK since 2011 with her Speak Now World Tour, but as she released her latest album Red in 2012, a return to the UK was a safe bet, and she began the Red Word Tour in March 2013. This month saw the tour coming to the UK and boasts an impressive five sold out shows at London’s O2 Arena.
The Vamps, born from YouTube fame, were the only support slot on the tour. Despite being relatively new to the live scene, and certainly new to playing venues as big as the o2, they had a great stage presence, with front man Bradley Simpson taking to the crowd and his own band mates, as well as energetically running up and down the stage and walkway whilst singing.
They played six songs in total, including Can We Dance, a song that has plagued the radio for the last few months, as well as Wild Heart, their newest single. Two of the tracks were in fact covers, including a rehash of The Killers’ Mr Brightside, and Simon and Garfunkel’s Cecilia, both of which were musically-altered to reflect the band’s own style. During Can We Dance, which featured as the fifth track into their set, guitarist Connor Ball walked straight off the stage whilst paying more attention to the crowd than his footing. When he returned to his position on stage, he was noticeably in pain, and later tweeted a picture of his arm in a sling. As young as they are, there are bound to be a few on-stage hiccoughs!
After just a half hour set, The Vamps vacated the stage. Thirty minutes later, the lights dimmed and the stage lit up, showing a curtain with Taylor Swift’s singing shadow projected onto it. As she began to sing the first track of the night, State of Grace, also the first track from her latest album Red, the curtain fell and Taylor was finally revealed, much to the crowds excitement. Admittedly, as an opening track, State of Grace was rather underwhelming, but it was quickly followed by the title track from her latest album, which has a considerably more upbeat chorus. The set spanned 15 songs over the course of two hours, and featured several of her best-loved hits, including Love Story, Fearless, You Belong With Me, and her biggest singles from Red, 22, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and I Knew You Were Trouble, all of which were top 10 singles in the UK, as well as various tracks from each of her albums.
The show had a high production value, with costume changes for most songs, frequent set changes, pyrotechnics and costumed dancers. There was even a VT of Taylor in a 1930s-style dressing room, a theme which continued into Lucky Ones, a track from Red, where she portrays a 1930s celebrity chased by the paparazzi whilst being pushed around on a lounger – all whilst singing, of course. Critics have said that the show was over produced and drowned out the simplicity of Swift that for many was her appeal. However, Red bought a new side of the 24 year old, who developed from her Country roots and began to explore more genres, with her newest album being decidedly more pop than anything else, but also housing a dubstep vibe in her single I Knew You Were Trouble. During songs such as Mean and Treacherous, Swift played instruments alone on stage, demonstrating her true talents as well as appealing to the simpler side of her musical nature and showing her fans that she hasn’t forgotten her roots. This combination of impressive theatrics and toned-down simplistic stage time was a fantastic contrast, showcasing the singer’s career points.
Having already hinted early on in the show that she would be bringing a guest, the audience were in high anticipation – with previous guests on the tour such as Ed Sheeran, Patrick Stump, Ellie Goulding and Jennifer Lopez, hopes were high. After the ninth song of the night, Taylor began to tease the crowd with who the guest could be, hinting that the guest ‘cleaned up’ at the Brit Awards. She finally revealed that the guest was Emeli Sande, which received an ecstatic response from the crowd, and the two performed Sande’s almost-chart-topping Next To Me, inarguably the high point of the evening. Although Sande’s utterly flawess vocals over shadowed Swift’s less-powerful voice, the two created a fantastic rendition of the song.
It was no surprise that the show ended with her debut single from Red, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. The theatrics of the show were put into full force for the finale, with Swift sporting a circus ringmaster’s hat and coast whilst surrounded by clowns on stilts and blasted confetti before being slowly rotated around the arena on a podium to be in full view of each audience member before the show’s close.
Taylor Swift is known more for her musical ability and song writing rather than her singing, but this tour showcased all aspects of her talents, as her vocals remained strong throughout the show, minus a few strained notes during the more energetically performed songs. Performing on electric and acoustic guitar, banjo, and a baby grand piano, questioning her musical ability is out of the question – she is clearly talented and demonstrated this frequently throughout the show. All of this combined with the theatrics of the evening made for a beautifully put together tour that left the audience obviously delighted and impressed with the evening. As catchy as her music is, it is impossible to stay still – the audience looked exhausted at the end of the evening, although clearly overwhelmed with excitement from the evening. If you get the chance to see Taylor Swift live, absolutely take it.
Review by Sophie Weller