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For over 3 hours, Taylor Swift delivers a masterclass in pop ambition

Taylor Swift stood on the stage at State Farm Stadium, the lights bouncing off her dazzling leotard and soaking up the sound of the 70,000 or so fans in front of her.

“I don’t know how to process all of this and how it makes me feel right now,” she said. “I can’t even say how much I missed you because there’s no way to verbalize it.”

how fast could putting into words Friday night when he kicked off the Eras tour, his first road show since 2018, since the start of the pandemic, since the release of four separate studio albums (and re-recorded versions of two older LPs), was how all this would go “Tonight we are going on an adventure,” she told the audience. “We’re going to explore the last 17 years of music that I’ve been lucky enough to make and have been kind enough to care about.”

Which, okay, sure, that’s how well-known and beloved pop tours work. And yet, this show truly felt like a novel experience, with a whopping 44 songs from Swift’s 10 studio albums split into distinct chapters over three hours and 15 minutes. Each section had its own wardrobe and color scheme: that sparkly pink leotard (and matching boots) for 2019’s “Lover,” for example, and a ruffled dress for 2010’s fairytale-obsessed “Speak Now.” . For the portion of the concert dedicated to “Red,” the 2012 smash that set her on the path to stardom, Swift, 33, wore a version of her T-shirt from her “22” music video, only instead of it. reading “THERE’S NOT MUCH HAPPENING RIGHT NOW,” it read, “A LOT HAPPENING RIGHT NOW,” a subtle but meaningful tweak meant to flatter the attention of the many eagle-eyed Swifties in the house.

At best, Friday’s show complicated the emotional release that comes with performing a great pop song.

(Kevin Winter/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

In fact, Friday’s production came across as fan service of the most comprehensive and elaborate kind. “We have a lot of time to try to sum up how I feel about how much I’ve missed you and how happy I am to see you,” Swift told the crowd at one point, doing what she could to offset a sense of demand so intense that Ticketmaster collapsed when tickets for the 52-date tour went on sale last fall. (Swift is scheduled to wrap up the tour with a five-night stand at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium in August.)

But the concert was also a showcase of the range and versatility that have made Swift the most successful singer-songwriter in an era defined by hip-hop. She delivered yearning acoustic ballads like “Lover” and “Enchanted,” her high, haunting voice; she mocked sarcastic electro-pop tracks like “Look What You Made Me Do,” “You Need to Calm Down” and “The Man,” the latest astute commentary on restrictive gender roles that played out in a set designed for look like an office

Accompanied by a band that included four backing vocalists, she immersed herself in the intricate bedroom folk sounds of her pandemic twin LPs, “Folklore” and “Evermore,” singing “Invisible String” from atop a model of a moss-covered cabin. Flanked by dancers, she went big and shiny for the one-two punch of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” on “I Knew You Were Trouble,” then went even bigger and brighter for the “1989” section of the show. “. ”, the most exuberant release of her. “Midnights,” which broke a number of sales and streaming records when it premiered in October, scored one of the longest runs of the night when Swift pieced together seven of her blurry R&B-adjacent cuts, including “Lavender Haze,” “Midnight Rain” and the “Anti-Hero” that tops the Hot 100; in each of them she smeared the edges of her voice, using it for both texture and narrative.

A woman sings and plays the acoustic guitar on stage.

Swift’s Eras tour will conclude with five shows at SoFi Stadium in August.

(John Shearer/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Her photobook approach inevitably played on the nostalgia of an audience that grew up with Swift. “Ready to go back to high school with me?” he asked before a sweetly strumming rendition of “You Belong With Me” from 2008’s “Fearless,” one of the first LPs he’s lately remade in a shrewd campaign to reclaim the financial rewards of music whose ownership has changed hands a couple times. Later, she delved further into the story with “Tim McGraw,” her first single as a teen country phenom, which she performed here on a flower-painted upright piano. (The piano was on a small side stage at the end of a track jutting out of the stadium floor, where Swift also gave a disconnected-style rendition of “Mirrorball” in a space she said would feature a different song each night of the tour. .)

At best, however, Friday’s show complicated the emotional release that comes with performing a great pop song. The highlight of the concert came almost precisely at the midpoint of a passionate and determined performance of the epic 10-minute version of Swift’s song “All Too Well” that came in 2021 on her re-recording of “Red.” On the album, “All Too Well” carefully analyzes the remains of a youthful romantic relationship with the wisdom of a few years of hindsight. Yet here on stage, banging away on an acoustic guitar while wearing a shimmering, floor-length robe that gave her an almost magical vibe, she turned the song into a kind of treatise on youth itself: on the illusions one allows one to buy into. the search for a happiness that never lasts.

Talk about a lot going on right now: You promised a trip back to your past, and instead delivered a takedown of it.