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One For The Books: Taylor Swift's Eras Tour Pairs Spectacle With Sincerity In Cardiff

Wednesday, 19 June 2024 Written by Laura Johnson

All photos: TAS Rights Management

I’ve learned that red lipstick and a confident stomp are all it takes for a couple of strangers to throw their lot in with someone. I’ve barely taken 10 steps off the bus and a mother and son from Gloucester have pegged me as someone who knows where they’re going — luckily I’m Cardiff born and bred, so I do — and soon I’m guiding them through the droves of pink cowboy hats on sequin-flecked streets towards the Principality Stadium, where Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour is about to light up the Welsh capital. As we walk, I hear about how tonight will be the 10-year-old boy’s first gig — mum surprised him with tickets and took him out of school that day. Cool points: maximum.

The hype around Swift is not oversold, and my mouth is agape as I navigate the warren-esque queues surrounding the venue, with rowdy girl gangs, queer fans, battle-jacketed goths and families all jockeying for position (shout out to the dad in the “It’s Me, Hi, I’m The Dad. It’s Me” T-shirt at Gate 2). There is nothing but pure joy and anticipation in the air.

For someone used to rough and ready grassroots venues, the proposition of a pure pop extravaganza in what many label a soullessly massive venue is hard to reconcile, but truly there is warmth radiating from every corner. Although the Welsh were out in force, I overheard a guy telling of how he came from Australia and I spoke to parents from Texas who planned a trip to the UK around this show as tickets closer to home were so obscenely expensive — that’s a whole other article, so we’ll leave that there.

Paramore are the openers, only a year or so after they smashed a headline performance at the city’s Utilita Arena. I’m primed for a show, with a capital S, and undeterred by the step up to stadiums, they deliver. Powerhouse vocalist Hayley Williams explains that the band’s formative years saw them strictly confined to touring within their more alt-leaning genre — “It was rough out there, man!” — and she’s so relieved that things have progressed to the point where she’s now able to hit the road with her friend Swift, something that previously seemed impossible. 

The singer playfully acknowledges that it’s their job to limber up the crowd for her Grammy-winning friend. Delivering a mix of old and new (Last Hope, Misery Business, Still Into You, This Is Why being highlights) as well as their cover of Burning Down the House by Talking Heads, it’s a case of mission absolutely accomplished.

By the time a countdown clock appears on the gargantuan stage screen the screams are deafening (this coming from someone who’s seen Pigs x7 and Slipknot multiple times) and as dancers emerge with huge, Las Vegas-sized plumes of multi-coloured fabric fever pitch has been reached. Going through the setlist for a show like this takes up precious words that can be spent waxing lyrical about the actual performance — plus, we all know that setlist.fm and any Swift fan account will have that covered for us — so let’s not play the listicle game today.

It’s the superstar singer-songwriter’s first time in Wales, and she’s debuting to a 67,000-strong sold-out crowd, something that even at her level she acknowledges is a big deal. She greets the adoring audience with “Shwmae” (Welsh for Hi) and later declares “Croeso i daith Eras”, welcoming us to The Eras Tour. This along with her dancer Kam Sunders offering up “Ych a fi” (Yuck/Gross) during We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and elsewhere a count of “Un, dau, tri, pedwar” (1,2,3,4) shows just how much Swift tailors (yes, I said it) her show to her audience, making it personable where on paper it appears anything but. Sure, she may do it in each city, but tonight is our turn, and she’s spoiling us.

Swift doubles down on the sentiment during the rapturous applause that follows the piano-led Champagne Problems from her 2020 album ‘evermore’. The cheers continue for so long that she describes the crowd as “something else”, before declaring Cardiff was “one for the books.”

The ease with which this powerhouse performer ricochets between casually chatting, about the tour’s backstory or an album’s inspiration, to pitch perfect vocals and meticulously executed choreography that sees her move with intention and grace is awe-inspiring. Even more so because, alongside her fans, she also seems to be having the best time. By her own admission during the show, The Eras Tour was created to bring together all the favourite moments from her previous outings and album cycles, and it shows.

You’d be hard pressed to find any Swiftie here who didn’t get to hear at least one of their favourites — the hits are relentless, with tracks from ‘1989’ garnering the biggest singalongs — but Swift was also surprised by the reception to the ‘folklore’ segment, which when the record arrived in 2020 marked a notable shift from her crowd-pleasing pop to more self-serving songwriting. 

She still plays the surprise song game, though, pulling out I Hate It Here from the recent ‘The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology’ for its live debut during a mashup with The Lakes, having already delivered the double whammy of I Forgot That You Existed and This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things. They followed what has now been dubbed Female Rage: The Musical, aka the ‘Tortured Poets Department’ era, with a set that offers up retro black and white visuals, gravity-defying stagecraft and performances of the highest drama from Swift and her supporting cast of dancers. 

The ‘Midnights’ era closes out the show with seven tracks, and as the final notes of Karma ring out and rainbow confetti rains down, I felt a collective deep breath was taken by all, and not just because she’d played for nearly three and a half hours (which admittedly took its toll on this late 30s writer’s gig-worn back).

The bubble we’d all been in for that time had just popped. Like waking up from a great dream, we bask in the afterglow until reality sets in and we have to face the bus journey home, wristbands still flashing and friendship bracelets still being swapped. Record-breaking ticket sales aside, The Eras Tour truly is one for the history books. I was not ready for it.

Taylor Swift Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri June 21 2024 - LONDON Wembley Stadium
Sat June 22 2024 - LONDON Wembley Stadium
Sun June 23 2024 - LONDON Wembley Stadium
Fri June 28 2024 - DUBLIN Aviva Stadium
Sat June 29 2024 - DUBLIN Aviva Stadium
Sun June 30 2024 - DUBLIN Aviva Stadium

Thu July 04 2024 - AMSTERDAM Johan Cruijff ArenA (Netherlands)
Fri July 05 2024 - AMSTERDAM Johan Cruijff ArenA (Netherlands)
Sat July 06 2024 - AMSTERDAM Johan Cruijff ArenA (Netherlands)
Tue July 09 2024 - ZURICH Stadion Letzigrund (Switzerland)
Wed July 10 2024 - ZURICH Stadion Letzigrund (Switzerland)
Sat July 13 2024 - MILAN SAN SIRO STADIUM (Italy)
Sun July 14 2024 - MILAN SAN SIRO STADIUM (Italy)
Wed July 17 2024 - GELSENKIRCHEN VELTINS Arena (Germany)
Thu July 18 2024 - GELSENKIRCHEN VELTINS Arena (Germany)
Tue July 23 2024 - HAMBURG Volksparkstadion (Germany)
Wed July 24 2024 - HAMBURG Volksparkstadion (Germany)
Sat July 27 2024 - MUNICH Olympiastadion (Germany)
Sun July 28 2024 - MUNICH Olympiastadion (Germany)
Thu August 01 2024 - WARSAW PGE Narodowy (Poland)
Fri August 02 2024 - WARSAW PGE Narodowy (Poland)
Sat August 03 2024 - WARSAW PGE Narodowy (Poland)
Thu August 08 2024 - VIENNA Ernst Happel Stadion (Austria)
Fri August 09 2024 - VIENNA Ernst Happel Stadion (Austria)
Sat August 10 2024 - VIENNA Ernst Happel Stadion (Austria)

Thu August 15 2024 - LONDON Wembley Stadium
Fri August 16 2024 - LONDON Wembley Stadium
Sat August 17 2024 - LONDON Wembley Stadium
Mon August 19 2024 - LONDON Wembley Stadium
Tue August 20 2024 - LONDON Wembley Stadium

Fri October 18 2024 - MIAMI Florida - Hard Rock Stadium - Complex (USA)
Sat October 19 2024 - MIAMI Florida - Hard Rock Stadium - Complex (USA)
Sun October 20 2024 - MIAMI Florida - Hard Rock Stadium - Complex (USA)
Fri October 25 2024 - NEW ORLEANS Louisiana - Caesars Superdome (USA)
Sat October 26 2024 - NEW ORLEANS Louisiana - Caesars Superdome (USA)
Sun October 27 2024 - NEW ORLEANS Louisiana - Caesars Superdome (USA)
Fri November 01 2024 - INDIANAPOLIS Indiana - Lucas Oil Stadium (USA)
Sat November 02 2024 - INDIANAPOLIS Indiana - Lucas Oil Stadium (USA)
Sun November 03 2024 - INDIANAPOLIS Indiana - Lucas Oil Stadium (USA)
Thu November 14 2024 - TORONTO Ontario - Rogers Centre (Canada)
Fri November 15 2024 - TORONTO Ontario - Rogers Centre (Canada)
Sat November 16 2024 - TORONTO Ontario - Rogers Centre (Canada)
Thu November 21 2024 - TORONTO Ontario - Rogers Centre (Canada)
Fri November 22 2024 - TORONTO Ontario - Rogers Centre (Canada)
Sat November 23 2024 - TORONTO Ontario - Rogers Centre (Canada)
Fri December 06 2024 - VANCOUVER British Columbia - BC Place Stadium (Canada)
Sat December 07 2024 - VANCOUVER British Columbia - BC Place Stadium (Canada)
Sun December 08 2024 - VANCOUVER British Columbia - BC Place Stadium (Canada)

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