The Eras Tour review: How Taylor Swift captivated a nation

Entertainment

Australia’s Eras Tour is officially over. Across seven stadium shows, Taylor Swift sold more than 600,000 tickets and dominated headlines throughout the country. So what is the secret sauce that allows entertainment’s golden girl to electrify audiences all over the world? Forbes Australia spoke to Swifties in Sydney and joined the diehard fans at Accor Stadium to understand the phenomenon.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 23: Taylor Swift performs at Accor Stadium on February 23, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Don Arnold/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

There were forests, bicycles, columns of light, a doll house, fireworks, beaches, pumpkins, diamonds, flickering bracelets, trains, candles, smoke shows, snow, witches, tuxedos, neon golf clubs, and shooting flames.

Snakes, confetti. Perfect storms.

Taylor Swift’s Sydney show covered all four seasons, literally and metaphorically. The concert was packed with mythology and escapism. Storytelling and individualism. Sprinkles of kindness and kinetic energy.

Before the first of her four Sydney concerts had even started, a ferocious thunderstorm swept through the city. It set the tone for an electric performance that closed out a scorching day where the mercury hit 38 degrees. At 6 pm buckets of rain descended, cancelling the opening act and evacuating sparkling Swifties who had taken their expensive seats early. Less than two hours later, the stage had been mopped, the ominous clouds had retreated, and Swift took to the stage in a shimmering leotard, commanding not just the focus of 88,000 concert-goers, but seemingly the weather gods too.

By Taylor-time it was a delightful 22 with a welcome breeze. The three-and-a-half-hour performance put on by Frontier Touring was largely rain-free. Though had it not been, Swift and her stiletto boots would have marched forward with the show anyway. There were times that Accor Stadium – an open-air venue built for the Sydney Olympics – felt stuffy and humid. As if on cue, a delicate dusting of mist percolated down from the skies. It lasted just minutes, the audience was rejuvenated, homeostasis was restored, and the Swift extravaganza rolled on.

References to the changing nature of nature were not just present in Sydney’s weather but reinforced on the enormous screen that was a backdrop to the performance on stage. Captivating depictions of summer, autumn, winter and spring – eras within themselves – drew the viewer in and added to the sensory overload headlined by Swift’s vocals.

Adding to the sumptuous visuals, was Swift in a pastel blue ball gown singing Enchanted to Meet You amid lilac flowers. Before that, reptilian black and red sharp edges for Ready For It and Look What You Made Me Do. Comforting autumnal texture and tones brought it back down to earth for Willow and Champagne Problems. A defiant metallic fuschia two-piece shimmied from one end of the stage to the other during Shake It Off. Swift wore ethereal white for Betty while singing atop a moss-covered cabin. And to close out the show, sported glimmering royal blue – as she reminded the audience of the power of Karma, and the guy on the Chiefs coming home with her to Crown’s penthouse apartment at Barangaroo.

Swifties arrive at Accor Stadium for the Sydney leg of the Eras Tour. Video: Getty

Rather than the beginning, middle and end that is evident in many stories, Swift delivered a rollercoaster of ups, downs, juxtapositions and friction, stops and starts. The energy was akin to the spikes between crescendo and rest on a heart monitor, simultaneously dramatic and yet reassuring in its consistency. Swift didn’t just begin strong, transition to the slower ballads, and then finish up-tempo. The frenetic pacing facilitated a seamless transition between multiple eras, records, and tones.

The result was captivating from start to finish. Swift pulled off the impossible – the encapsulation of the good girl with the seductress, folklore with the snake. She was all four mythological Sex and the City characters in one. From Charlotte to Samantha, Miranda to Carrie, and back again using diametrically opposing forces to pinball the audience from one extreme to the other.

It is a feat that held the viewer not just on the edge of their seat, but on their feet dancing. Even more impressively, it was a living embodiment of a woman’s ability to be more than one thing. A refusal to be pigeonholed into one dimension. The takeaway was epic in both its ambition and execution: Swift is multi-faceted, unapologetic about it, and a shining light to girls and women who have no interest in being contained within one bucket.

Taylor Swift performs at the Eras Tour in Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

The buckets that women are often assigned to, reach back to Greek mythology. Known as ‘goddess archetypes,’ these categorizations seek to define women as one thing, rather than enable them to be multi-dimensional. The warrior, the strategist, the wise woman, the wife, the mother, the maiden, and the lover are each assigned a Goddess in Greek mythology. In Jungian psychology, the 7 archetypes are known as the innocent, the caregiver, the outlaw, the beloved, the scholar, the explorer, and the ruler.

Throughout Swift’s Eras Tour performance, she showcases her ability to transcend between these archetypes, using outfit changes, dance, colour, song, dialogue, body language, and lyrics. In doing so, she provides an example for others to think of themselves as multi-dimensional, and a refusal to be labelled as just one thing. Swift, not anyone else, sets the narrative on who she is, and so can they.

From the stage to the streets: Swifties descend on Sydney
Taylor Swift during an electric performance on the Australian leg of her Eras tour (Photo by Graham Denholm/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

The backup dancers and vocalists on the Eras Tour were positioned not just as performers but also as a part of Swift’s squad. She was the star of the show sure, and held the spotlight with ease, but bringing her ‘mates’ along for the ride was undoubtedly a pivotal part of the sisterhood message. And it is one that is reverberating throughout every city the Eras Tour visits.

Sparkling Swifties filled the streets of Sydney this weekend. At bus stops, train stations, and in the airport. Making their way to the stadium, dressed not for the male gaze, but for each other and most importantly, for themselves. There were men at the show, but sitting around me in seats on the floor of the stadium, I could spot just three. One in a Travis Kelce jersey, one in a black and red snake ‘Reputation’ ensemble, and one Grant Denyer navigating his cowboy boot-wearing daughter’s hand through the crowd.

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Before Friday’s concert, I chatted to a group of four girls aged between 20 and 23 who had flown into Sydney from Hobart to attend the show. Their enthusiasm was palpable. Swifties were easy to spot at the airport – the rows of bright-coloured bracelets around their wrists featuring round letters were a giveaway. I approached another group of six jewellery-wearing travellers and asked them where they had flown in from.

“We ran a competition to give away tickets to fly down to Sydney, accommodation, and to go into the suite to see Taylor Swift,” a lady holding 30 or so bracelets tells me. “I work on Nova in Brisbane, my name is Susie O’Neill and I’m on the breakfast show.”

The winners of Brisbane’s Nova radio competition accompanied O’Neill on the flight to Sydney. 13-year-old Siena Kisten and her mum Chantal Kisten, 40, were thrilled to win tickets to Swift through Nova. They had previously tried to buy tickets to the concert on Facebook Marketplace and lost $600 in the transaction.

O’Neill and her breakfast co-hosts chose the Kistens out of hundreds of entrants in the competition. The second group of winners were Ffion Mills and Renee Mackay.

“We had to say in 25 words or less why we should win,” says Mills. “Mine was… recently qualified paramedic, got married last month and turning 30, so I have lots to celebrate.”

O’Neill says the value of the trip Nova was providing to the winners was high, but didn’t know the exact figure.

“It’s priceless obviously,” says O’Neill. “Nova bought the suite. And a ticket from Brisbane to Sydney this week was about the same price as flying someone to Las Vegas.”

At Sydney’s Central train station – a thoroughfare for Swifties boarding the train to the stadium in Homebush – Eras Tour signage was set up for fans to take photos with.

It is there I meet a group of four women who went to boarding school together in Yeppoon, and flew in for the show. At 3 pm – four hours before the concert starts – the 41-year-olds are already sparkling head to toe in their Swifty best. Between them, Rebecca Singleton, Cassie Brown, Annette Priddle and Emily Brown estimate they collectively spent around $7000 to make the trip happen.

“I have a 9-year-old daughter who was very jealous she isn’t coming,” says Cassie Brown who flew in to Sydney from Rockhampton airport.

The Swift Effect

Reflecting on the event the morning after the show, I asked my niece Ella – who did not attend the concert – what it is about Swift that she thinks made the concert such a hot ticket. The 12-year-old Melbourne girl gave me four words to describe Swift’s appeal: Joyful, creative, role model and kind.

I quizzed my mum – who came with me to the Sydney show – how she sums up T Swift’s popularity. “She has many dimensions, seems appreciative, is clean living, and relatable,” the 74-year-old says. “I think her allure has a lot to do with how she talks to and engages with the audience.”

An artist revealing their ‘real’ or ‘genuine’ self is a powerful way to connect, says Kate Rourke, Getty Images head of creative for APAC.

“These are values that seem to be clearly understood by Taylor Swift, whose brand appears to be centred around being authentic and relatable,” says Rourke.

“Taylor often shows she is unafraid to exhibit true thoughts and emotions on stage – whether that’s crying with gratitude in front of her 96,000 fans who attended her Melbourne concert, or sharing the emotionally raw inspiration behind her heartfelt songs.”

Taylor Swift performs with Sabrina Carpenter at Accor Stadium on February 23, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Don Arnold/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Getty has photographed the Eras Tour all over the world, and recently conducted research into what resonates with Australians. Its Insights division known as VisualGPS found a 329% increase in interest for visuals of Swift from January to February. The research also found that the characteristics Swift is known for intersect with the preferences of Gen Z and millennial audiences.

“VisualGPS insights reveal a notable trend amongst Australian consumers: an increasing desire for authenticity in imagery. In fact, 87% of Gen Z and millennials noted that it was important that visuals are authentic,” says Rourke.

And such is the appeal of Swift. From a 12-year-old to a 74-year-old, and me a 44-year-old in between. The music is great, no doubt. The community of Swifties is a drawcard for many. But for others, who are not diehard fans, it is the dynamic experience of a live Swift show that is a welcome assault on your senses, leaving you with a high, an empowerment to sparkle unapologetically, and a belief that you can reinvent yourself as many times as feels right.

I should add, unlike many of the folk I talked to for this article, I do not consider myself a Swiftie. I have never bought an album, and while I do like her songs and often ask Alexa to play Swift, I couldn’t identify the ‘Eras’ or four new albums she was referencing in the tour, until doing research for this story. Accordingly, it wasn’t T Swift’s latest music that was the drawcard for me to attend the show.

Taylor Swift fans, also known as “Swifties”, show off their friendship bracelets gather outside Accor Stadium for Taylor Swift’s first Sydney concert on February 23, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

What I anticipated, was that it would be a spectacle, an escape from a rough week, a celebratory moment with my mum that would be one for the history books, and an up close and personal method to understand a cultural phenomenon.

True to form, the Eras Tour was every bit the spectacular visual and audible feast I had heard it would be. It set a record – and perhaps a benchmark – as not just my first Swift concert, but the most start-to-finish captivating live event I’ve ever been to.

Such is the power of mythology, a finetuned tour that grossed a billion-dollars last year alone, and the folklore of global golden girl Swift.

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