The recent single “Karma” by Taylor Swift raises the question of whether the titular force can be actively pursued. If so, is the act of writing $100,000 bonus checks to tour truck drivers a form of metaphysical insurance payment? These are the contemplative thoughts that might whimsically cross your mind during the Eras Tour, especially as the clock approaches midnight, and Swift concludes the 3-hour-and-25-minute marathon set with a performance of “Karma.” It’s a peculiar and amusing finale that leaves the audience with the notion that virtue may be superior to revenge, or perhaps, the two concepts can be interchangeable. Who can dispute any of this when witnessing the remarkable success of the soon-to-be-billion-grossing Eras Tour?
- Zach Bryan Arrested in Oklahoma
- Music Industry Moves: Warner Music Chief Digital Officer Oana Ruxandra Exits Company
- Stray Kids Involved in Car Accident, Side-Group 3Racha Will Perform at Global Citizen Festival Instead
- Offset, Sexyy Red, Ludacris Among 2023 BET Hip-Hop Awards Performers
- Becky G on Assembling ‘Esquinas’ With Producer Edgar Barrera and New Mexican Artists: ‘As Serendipitous As It Can Get’
Swift is graciously sharing her good fortune through an exhaustive and exhilarating show, bringing joy to millions of international fans. As witnessed in Thursday night’s performance at the L.A. area’s SoFi Stadium — the first of a six-night stand in Inglewood, Calif. — the Eras Tour epitomizes the zenith of what a pop superstar tour can achieve. It’s grand in scale, oddly intimate, and, at its core, exceptionally musical in a way that is unexpected and not typically demanded from pop extravaganzas. The show exudes generosity and sweetness, while also displaying flexibility akin to that of an acrobat.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” Swift expressed to the crowd early in Thursday’s show, “but this is the last city on the U.S. leg of the Eras Tour, and we really wanted to spend it somewhere special.” Although flattery will get her everywhere, there’s an unspoken asterisk to that statement — the SoFi run signifies the end of just one U.S. leg for the tour. Swift announced earlier in the day that she is adding North American dates for fall 2024, although it seems more like a regional extension than a comprehensive return after the upcoming Latin American, Asian, and European segments in the next year. Nevertheless, Angelenos love to believe they’re special and were delighted to treat it as a finale to what began in Phoenix four and a half months ago, even if, in the grand scheme, she’s only just begun.
For fans who have already experienced the tour, which includes nearly everyone if you consider those watching shaky, unauthorized livestreams, not much has changed in the set since the March opening in Arizona. The explicitly autobiographical song about a now-ended love affair, “Invisible String,” was dropped months ago, making way for another exceptional “Folklore” song with a nearly opposite perspective, “The 1.” “Long Live” was incorporated into the set upon the release of the re-recorded “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).” Just recently, “Tis the Damn Season” was removed from the “Evermore” portion of the set to accommodate “No Body, No Crime,” featuring Haim, who joined for the final stretch of the tour.
The overall setlist remains unchanged, with the exception of the two surprise songs introduced as the penultimate section of the show. On Thursday, the first of these was the highly anticipated live debut of a Vault track that recently became her latest single, “I Can See You.” In concert, it was transformed into a genuine rocker, despite being performed as a solo acoustic guitar number. The other surprise addition was a track from “Midnights” that hadn’t made the cut before, “Maroon” — its piano rendition proving even more captivating than its original form enmeshed in Jack Antonoff’s booming co-production on record.
One notable change for the Los Angeles show was the introduction of glowing wristbands left on all approximately 70,000 seats before gates opened, creating a light display surpassing anything seen at the start of the tour. As Swift kicked off her condensed version of “You Need to Calm Down,” the SoFi audience transformed into a massive, blinking rainbow flag in surround vision — a predictable yet spectacular sight. While it might not be a spoiler for the rest of the run, it’s worth mentioning that red received special consideration, indicating careful consideration, as well as significant expense and effort, in the color-coding for each of the nearly 45 songs that involve the audience’s wrists. This goes beyond what might seem like ordinary glow sticks, creating a particularly striking effect at SoFi Stadium. Nestled deep into the ground with an extreme rake in its medium and upper seating areas, the stadium almost feels like being surrounded by canyon walls, now illuminated by benign alien forces.
Swift makes a concerted effort to ensure the crowd feels an integral part of the show, not solely due to the accessories provided to them. “Is there anyone here tonight who put in an extensive amount of effort to be with us at the Eras Tour?” she asked. And then, with even more consideration: “Did anyone here tonight put a lot of thought and preparation into one of these two things: lyric memorization, and your cute outfit?” Following the tour tradition, only one audience member is allowed near the actual proceedings, typically a child brought onto the B-stage for the hat-gifting ritual during “22.” On Thursday, it was Bianka Bryant, the 6-year-old daughter of Kobe and Vanessa, receiving the honor.
Regrettably, “Mean” doesn’t feature in Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour setlist. Even in a repertoire comprising 45 songs, certain sacrifices must be made when it comes to greatest hits. However, the show might evoke thoughts of that song because, if nothing else, it underscores that Swift… can… sing. She delivers breathtaking interpretations of her extensive catalog for a concert lasting 205 minutes, with only about five minutes, at most, offstage for costume changes. (Many of the outfit transformations occur onstage, in view of the audience, minimizing the need for excessive instrumental vamping by the band.) While numerous pop stars at her echelon might resort to some lip-synching during intricate choreography, there’s little doubt that she performs everything live, even when there are numbers that involve her own background vocal stacking alongside the in-house vocalists. It’s easy to be captivated by her visually expressive performances and the ever-changing production design, potentially causing one to overlook the artistry involved in delivering these songs flawlessly over the course of three-plus hours.
Collectively, it constitutes an athletic achievement that fans might underestimate, given the audience’s preoccupation with their own physical efforts. This includes navigating the stadium, traversing down ramps, which can extend to an additional 10 minutes for those with floor seats, and standing from 6:30 p.m., when the opening act, Gracie Abrams, begins, until 11:45 p.m., when Swift concludes her final performance duty for the night. In a Taylor Swift concert, seats are more about delineating personal space than serving as something intended for actual sitting.
Seated alone at the weathered piano on the stage, Swift elucidated in straightforward terms, easily comprehensible even for fans as young as Brianka Bryant, what her magic is all about. She recounted the hiatus from touring for five years, emphasizing that it wasn’t a typical or scheduled break but was necessitated by a global pandemic and more pressing concerns. Swift, using concerts as a coping mechanism since the age of 12, shared her creative process of feeling emotions, crafting songs about those feelings, and presenting them to the audience to gauge their resonance. The validation she receives during a show, whether through nods, eye contact, or singing along, reinforces a connection, making her feel less alone in those emotions. With live shows on hold, Swift resolved to maintain that connection by creating and releasing multiple albums.
This decision led to touring behind four new albums instead of one. Swift expressed the cathartic prospect of singing “Champagne Problems” with the audience, highlighting a specific moment by calling out “Bridge!” just before a section featuring an unconventional sing-along bait—a forceful recitation of a passage describing the rejection of a marriage proposal, including the bold line “What a shame she’s messed up in the head!” While this part might not be explicitly explained to the pre-teen audience, the older crowd, having grown up with Swift, appreciates her songwriter’s audacious freedom in sharing her vulnerabilities, especially in “Anti-Hero.” The inclusion of “Long Live,” a song previously reserved for closing shows, introduces additional climactic moments to the Eras Tour setlist, potentially leading some to anticipate an encore break at this casual halfway point in the performance.
What makes the closing moments especially satisfying is that, by the time Swift wraps up the show with seven tracks from last fall’s “Midnights” album, the expected career hits are already behind us. It feels like we’ve joined the artist at a post-concert spot, with music that naturally has a clubby vibe, despite featuring some of her most sophisticated lyricism. The after-party is seamlessly integrated into the show’s fabric. How many superstars would conclude a hits-packed extravaganza with “And now here’s a solid half-hour from my new album”? Swift makes it feel not just welcome but deliriously fitting, not forced.
As the “Midnights” section begins, some Angelenos may be tempted to adopt the typical behavior, like heading to the car to beat the traffic, akin to confident Dodgers fans leaving early. Yet, this would be a mistake at this show. While it’s true that the show has already peaked 25 times, and this is the winding-down phase, “Karma”—and karma itself—dictate staying until the end. We might not witness another tour that feels like a life-flashing-before-eyes experience, not even from Swift. The memory of this extensive bonding session will be more than a comforting thought; if Swift’s Eras define yours, it will be a testament to the power of great pop music.