The Showgoer: The Greatest Show On Earth — Taylor Swift’s ‘Eras Tour’ — Is All That And Far More

Night Two Of Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour East Rutherford, NJ
Taylor Swift performs onstage during “Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour” at MetLife Stadium on May 27 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

It will take some time before all the implications of Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour” are fully understood. Her epochal trek is a potent multifaceted symbol for our times rife with social, political, economic and cultural meaning (how many days this year went by that you did not hear Taylor Swift’s name?), which we’ll leave to cultural theorists and pundits to deconstruct. From a live industry standpoint, however, her stadium tour is both qualitatively and quantitatively a high-water mark that left the showgoer completely agog. 

By any measure, the “Eras Tour,” which ended its first North American leg with six shows at L.A. County’s SoFi Stadium, is spectacular. Swift at 33 is a masterful performer with a preternatural ability to connect with fans, hold them in her warm embrace for three-and-a-half hours and cut through so much chatter, clutter and B.S. while shattering once-unthinkable touring records. Swift’s “Eras Tour” dominated Pollstar’s mid-year charts like nothing else ever, blasting past all comers with an estimated $300.8 million gross, more than double runner-up Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band’s $142.6 million. Her estimated 53,900 average tickets per show and $253 average ticket price were among the survey’s highest and the astronomical $13.6 million average gross no one else came close to.

It wasn’t a huge surprise considering her continued power in the marketplace with both new and re-recorded music dominating streaming and radio, a Netflix documentary and the continued reverberations of a November ticketing debacle heard round the world. In fact, when considering the scale and scope of “Eras Tour,” as well as an industry-wide trend towards increased ticket prices and stadium shows, Pollstar predicted in November, long before anyone else, that Swift would easily cross the billion-dollar threshold, which she is now well on her way to accomplishing. 

Taylor’s current show has the goods to back it up. Her voice is a sonorous gift from above with a dynamic range that within a lyrical phrase can emote strength, heartbreak, anger, vulnerability and world domination. She can hold a massive stadium rapt playing solo guitar or piano with precision choreography, haute couture costumes (thank you Roberto Cavalli) and engage in smart banter between songs.  All of it is tastefully integrated into cutting-edge production that, never bombastic or garish, stays on point over the course of more than 50 songs. The “Eras Tour” is easily one of the greatest shows, if not the greatest show on earth. 

There may be nothing more rock & roll in today’s pop & roll world, or filled with more symbolism, than the opening of Swift’s “Eras Tour.” Significantly it’s an abbreviated version of 2019’s “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” featuring jaw-dropping production with dancers sporting giant fanned-out, billowing tails warmly lit in electric neon hues and as fantastically eye-popping as anything Cirque du Soleil could muster. “Miss Americana” is also the name of Swift’s Netflix doc, an unvarnished vérité look at an inflection point in Swift’s career. Here, utterly disillusioned with the business and her career, she “deconstructs her whole belief system” and transforms her woes into personal liberation and artistic rebirth by becoming more honestly herself (sorry, Sen. Blackburn). 

By opening “Eras Tour” with “Miss Americana,” Swift is taking ownership of every phase of her career — the good, the bad and the permed — and thoroughly honoring it all. It’s significant, too, that she segues out of “Miss Americana” without pause into her latest monster jam, “Cruel Summer,” a fan favorite and sleeper hit off 2019’s Lover that put her fans on notice that she is always and forever in service to them.

Swift’s connection with her fans is unlike anything anywhere. Swifties, while cross-generational and multi-gender, skew young, female and jubilant. They are clad in every phase of Swift’s costuming from sparkling shifts and ballroom gowns to halter tops and cowboy hats to leotards and oversized tees – facets not only of Taylor, but of the fans themselves. Her quick-witted hyper-articulate lyrics are known by all and by heart and screamed at the top of young lungs throughout. Snippets of those bons mots are proudly written on their trade ’em, collect ’em, give ’em away bracelets, the currency of the realm. (My 15-year-old proudly sports her “Fuck The Patriarchy” bracelet from MetLife Stadium). 

To witness the tweens and younger set spit out lines verbatim like “Your Midas touch on the Chevy door / November flush and your flannel cure / This dorm was once a madhouse / I made a joke, Well, it’s made for me” (“Champagne Problems”) is just heartbreakingly sweet to see. 

And Swift is eminently relatable, down-to-earth between and during songs. “You already know this, but you look really cute tonight,” she says. Elsewhere, she kisses her muscles before “The Man,” gives her hat to a young fan, notes how much she’s missed touring for the last five years, tells the crowd “you are making me love you” and that she likes to “womensplain to men how to apologize — but not to the men who are here tonight, they are extremely emotionally intelligent.”  

The production and technology is stunning and tastefully rendered. Where some acts tend to overdo the tech gimmickry, “Eras Tour” elegantly integrates it. The high-def video makes office buildings with glass elevators and snake close-ups seem immersive. There are waterfalls of sparks, hydraulic stage risers, smoke and fire cannons, glowing orbs, moss-covered pianos and folkloric cabins straight out of a Hobbit village and illuminated neon-framed phone booths. All of it works to complement the song.

By the end of the “Eras” show, it’s clear that in her 17 years of making music, Swift’s catalog is filled with stone cold classics forever enshrined in the pop canon. Beloved jams like “Wildest Dreams,” “Blank Space,” “Shake It Off,” “Lover,” “Out of the Woods,”  “You Belong With Me,” “Look What You Made Me Do,” “Bad Blood,” “Delicate,” “Anti-Hero,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “Love Story,” “You Need To Calm Down,” “Karma,” and “All Too Well” among others.  Her eras are our eras and you will hear these classic jams in all future eras. Meanwhile, every other mega stadium tour take note: the bar has been set and it’s a high reach.