BY MELISSA RUGGIERI
In case you haven’t figured it out, it’s Taylor Swift’s world and we just live in it.
As it should be, considering the power that Swift holds in pop music right now.
She’s two Florida dates away from wrapping the North American leg of her worldwide “1989” tour (then it’s off to Asia and Australia to cap the year) so it was expected that her sold-out-for-months Georgia Dome concert Saturday night would roll smoothly.
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It did, with the requisite stadium-show accouterments – the trap doors, the layers of dry ice, the lasers, the rotating, rising catwalk – prompting wide-eyed gapes from the large segment of very young fans in the crowd of 56,000.
It’s impressive enough that Swift has turned herself into a multi-demographic artist, one who can relate to fellow twentysomethings, pique the musical interest of tweens and make her two-hour spectacle hardly something to endure for middle-aged chaperones.
More importantly, not since Madonna in her ‘80s-stadium-heyday has any solo female artist commanded such massive crowds completely on her own.
Yes, Swift employed a five-piece band and trio of backup singers for the musical muscle. But unlike the other acts who breathe rarified stadium air – One Direction, The Rolling Stones, U2, Bon Jovi – Swift doesn’t have the luxury of bandmates to share the workload. It’s also different for the handful of country boys – Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan – who have earned stadium status. Swift’s crowd requires a glitzy production; they’re not going to be content to swill beers and raise their boots in the air.
So from the moment the 25-year-old wunderkind strutted down the catwalk for the glossy opening stutter of “Welcome to New York” to her final directive to “Shake it Off,” Swift was primed to engage.
Her runway walk, all coltish legs and perfectly timed sly smiles beamed on four giant video screens, suggested confidence, not arrogance, as Swift rode the synth-tastic wave of “New Romantics” and unfurled “Blank Space” (truly one of the best pop songs of the decade) with a winking ferocity.
A beat-perfect dance troupe accompanied Swift – not a dancer, as she’d openly tell you, but a graceful mover nonetheless – on several songs and helped fill the space around her on a gritty rock version of “I Knew You Were Trouble,” then pranced with lighted umbrellas during the melodic rush of “How You Get the Girl,” one of many gems on the “1989” album.
Swift’s left thumb, injured with a kitchen knife last week, was still bundled in gauze (and inked with her favorite number, 13), but it didn’t prevent her from strapping on an acoustic guitar for the throwback diary entry “Fifteen” – on which her voice soared – or from playing keyboards as the hydraulic catwalk spun her around the Dome floor during a pop remix of “Love Story,” another vestige of her country days.
Midway through the concert, Swift shared the Tao of Taylor and addressed her young fans with an important message: Don’t listen to the haters on the Internet.
The pep talk was used as the preface to “Clean,” the closing track on “1989” written with British folk-electronica artist Imogen Heap, but it signified something far greater – Swift’s admirable relationship with her fans.
She’s no diva, and she understands that since her core followers spend their lives online, they expect her to live in their all-share world, too – which she does to great extent.
When Swift says things such as, “We’ve played Atlanta six times. We keep coming back to see you because you make us feel like your home is our home for the night…you have endless options for what you could be doing on a Saturday night and you decided, you’re gonna hang out with me,” it sounds more authentic than typical “insert city name here” stage patter.
Not that Swift isn’t above gimmicks to keep her trending.
A key part of her tour has been (or, at a certain point, became) the special guests who have joined her onstage. Everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to Joan Baez to Mick Jagger has participated with T-Swizzle for a surprise appearance, so it was a bit, well, underwhelming when Swift announced with great fanfare that Atlanta’s visitor was Tove Lo ( who just played Music Midtown last month).
The Swedish singer bopped out for a perfectly pleasant duet on her hit “Talking Body,” which ended with the pair sharing a #squad hug. But far more interesting was Swift’s hair-thrashing, black-jumpsuit-wearing version of “Bad Blood” and her rock star moment – alone on the catwalk, framed in red lighting with an electric guitar – that ushered in a Def Leppard-ized version of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
Swift indicated in a recent interview that she plans to dodge the spotlight for a bit after this tour. She knows that “1989” is a creative peak, and while it’s surely not the last we’ll hear from her, the album and this accompanying live presentation will be etched as a benchmark moment in her young career.