After 80 sold-out shows, Taylor Swift wrapped the North American leg of her Speak Now World Tour last night in front of a screaming crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York City. And what a show it was.
After a terrific set by South Carolina rockers NEEDTOBREATHE, whose strong sense of melody make it clear why Ms. “I love a good hook” Swift hand-picked them to open for her, the star of the evening emerged from the stage to lead her massive production. I’ve said it before, but allow me to reiterate: Anyone that doesn’t think Taylor Swift should’ve won Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards has never seen her live. That girl is the definition of an entertainer.
Sparks literally flew (courtesy of harnessed, floating dancers) during “Sparks Fly,” twinkling trees shone through a foggy, gazebo’d set during “Enchanted,” fearless dancers dropped out of enormous bells on “Haunted,” and, of course, Taylor donned a ball gown and soared over the audience in a Juliet balcony for her grand “Love Story” finale.
The show is a Cirque-du-Soleil level spectacle, but Taylor has a rare ability to infuse her spectacle with sincerity, and she sounds in fine voice throughout. (She’s definitely singing live, though at times I did suspect a little bit of backing-track assistance.)
Clearly, Swift wanted to make sure she ended the American section of her Speak Now Tour — there are six final dates in March in Australia and New Zealand — with a bang. And because she can’t resist a good cameo, Swift brought out her AMAs dancing partner and BFF Selena Gomez, who sang her hit “Who Says” to a sea of crying tween girls:
But, you know, one guest wasn’t enough for the final show! During her encore, Swift told a story about singing “Fire and Rain” in her fifth-grade chorus class and how she’s actually named after James Taylor, and then, whataya know? James Taylor himself walked out onstage to sing “Fire and Rain,” a song that hit a very nice place in Swift’s small but sweet voice. Listen below:
A few moments later, the Speak Now World Tour closed its curtains in America for the final time.
All in all, the pop-country sensation’s massively successful tour (which I’ve now seen on three separate occasions) is estimated to have brought in over $100 million in ticket sales — and that’s not even accounting for the extensive merchandising and Cover Girl endorsements that permeate every inch of whatever stadium she inhabits.
Whether you’re a fan or not, the reality is that Taylor Swift has entertained millions of ticket-buyers across the country, and it is truly a dazzling thing to a see a performer at the peak of her popularity put on such an elaborate, well-choreographed show. (And kudos too to her dancers, who bounced effortlessly from ballet to hip hop to aerial acrobatics).
Taylor performs with poise and graciousness, and with little more than a simple sashay in a sequined dress, she can turn an eager audience into a deafeningly loud, glowstick-waving, singing-at-the-top-of-their lungs army. In short, she makes a whole lot of people very, very happy.
Until next tour, Taylor.
Five more observations from the show:
1. To give you a sense of the the girl-to-boy ratio at a T-Swift show with 15,000 audience members, this was the men’s bathroom last night:
2. An alarming number of people showed their support for Taylor’s new kitten by either dressing as cats or holding signs that said “Speak Meow.”
3. One girl, who looked about 13 years old, had a Christmas lights-enhanced sign that read “I Still Believe In Falling In Love!” And people says kids are too cynical these days! (Also, how do fans make those crazy light-up signs?)
4. Taylor Swift’s mother took a stroll through the audience before the show started, and the girl in front of me shoved a CD (presumably a sample of her singing) into Mrs. Swift’s hands. When she accepted the album, the girl began gleefully jumping and squealing for about five straight minutes. It was sweet.
5. My coworker Leah Greenblatt, spotted Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield singing along by the side of the stage. And she suspects the incognito figure in the hoodie lurking stage left may have been Justin Bieber.
Did you catch the Speak Now World Tour? If so, share your favorite moments of the show in the comments below.
Follow Grady on Twitter: @EWGradySmith