Credit: Jeff Blake/Landov

It was a sea of red as Taylor Swift kicked off the first of three shows at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ last night as part of her Red tour — red spotlights, giant red flags, sparkly red dress, sparkly red microphone, sparkly red guitar, even a sparkly red violin bow…you get the point.

The concert featured most of Swift’s new album, a soulful new arrangement of one of her biggest hits, one technical gaffe on a duet with opening act Ed Sheeran, and several references to the media’s treatment of her song topics and personal life.

After opening the concert with “State of Grace” and “Holy Ground,” Swift addressed the screaming masses before launching into the title track from her recent Red album: “I write about my feelings. I’m told I have a lot of feelings,” she said with a smile. “But 13,000 of you opted into hearing about my feelings for the next two hours.” And she wasn’t kidding.

Later, in a video intro for “The Lucky One” which showed Swift in a 1940’s movie-house dressing room, the star took a more direct jab at critics as she ruminated on the perils of fame. “They don’t tell you what the papers are going to say about you. They’re building you up just to knock you down. But they haven’t yet.”

And she wasn’t done. “I used to think when you grow up, there are no mean kids,” said Swift in her intro to “Mean.” “I legitimately thought that meanness was something that people outgrow.” And before her next song, “Stay Stay Stay,” the star took a playful jab at her own reputation as the queen of the break-up song: “It’s been brought to my attention that apparently I write a lot of break-up songs. And I do write a lot of break-up songs. That’s a fact. But I don’t exclusively write break-up songs, because sometimes people stay.”

Swift also offered an explanation to her fans as to why she does write so many personal songs as she sat down at the piano in one of the evening’s highlights to belt out “All Too Well,” explaining how her songwriting constitutes a form a therapy. “My main goal is to write exactly how I’m feeling, so I can get past how I’m feeling.”

As on our her last Speak Now tour, the singer alternated between stripped down numbers like “Starlight” and “Begin Again” (which featured her on the guitar and not a lot else), and huge production pieces such as “22” (which featured Swift being carried through the crowd from the main stage to a smaller platform on the other side of the arena) and “I Knew You Were Trouble” (which took the form of a massive masquerade ball).

The biggest surprise of the evening was when Swift showcased a new bass-heavy, Motown-esque arrangement for one of her signature hits, “You Belong With Me.” A less welcome surprise occurred when technical difficulties sabotaged a duet between Swift and opening act Ed Sheeran on “Everything Has Changed.” Sheeran appeared to be having issues with both his in-ear monitor and guitar, causing the singers to be both out of tune and out of time for the first half of the song, although they recovered nicely by the end.

By the time Swift appeared on stage in a top hat for her circus-themed finale of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” — telling the audience “By all means, never get back together with your horrible ex” — it was clear the adoring crowd wanted to get back together with Taylor Swift very, very soon.

Follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss

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