Taylor Swift turns Foxboro ‘Red’

, Contributing Writer

When Taylor Swift hit the stage at Gillette Stadium last Saturday night for the second of two sold-out shows in Foxboro, the country-pop starlet proved she has gone full pop on the “Red” tour with an over-the-top performance fit for the enormous venue.

The show overall wasn’t subtle or surprising. It all began with the literal bang of fireworks, the song “State of Grace” and Swift with her signature “how amazing this all is” face. From there it was straight into “Holy Ground” with flashing drums and their drummers soaring through the air; this was when it became clear that Nashville wasn’t going to have a big presence in this show.

After a few numbers it was time for the first speech of the night, where she thanked the crowd for selling out the tour date and leading to the two-night extravaganza, praised the Bostonian for their strength by saying “You have proved to the world what I already know”, described how much she missed those in attendance, and then finally ended with a piece about colors and feelings leading into the title track off of her latest album, Red.

While any show of this nature must be scripted to a certain degree in order to maintain timing and keep lighting cues and such straight, the genuineness that once made Swift famous disappeared and left in its wake just another pop performer with sub-standard vocals and somewhat awkward dance moves. Her strength as a singer-songwriter and her ability to connect with young women on an intimate level through her music felt secondary throughout the night as one costume change led to another and another, and dancers went from characters in “Romeo & Juliet” to paparazzi to clowns. The unsuccessful transformation of a song about a high school girl with a crush on a taken boy, “You Belong With Me”, into a ’60s-era girl group number is a perfect example of the production overtaking the music.

It did not seem to matter to the adoring crowd, comprised mostly of women and young girls dressed in mainly pinks and reds and shirts with Swift’s name and/or face on them. Glow sticks, smart phones and camera flashes lit up the stands and the singer’s lyrics were decoratively written on homemade signs by the dozens.

One popular sign was the number “22”, and it was on this hit that Taylor Swift moved from the main stage to a smaller one closer to the back of the field. Quieting things down for a moment, she played a fan request song (“Fearless”) on an acoustic guitar, and then invited opener Ed Sheeran to sing their duet “Everything Has Changed” together. The song reads more as a Sheeran track due to his instrumental influence and harmonies, but regardless it reminded viewers of what makes Swft great: at heart, she’s a songwriter, and a damn good one too.

This simple, short and sweet set was nice, but the best moment of the night was a huge surprise: an appearance by the legendary Carly Simon, who joined Swift on stage for a duet of her classic number “You’re So Vain”. While Swift may put her lovelife on display in her music, the song was the perfect choice for the pair, as many still theorize who the track really is about.

After this sensational duet, yet another costume change led into “I Knew You Were Trouble” with a ballgown ripped off to reveal something more akin to lingerie. The wild number went straight into “All Too Well” with Swift looking close to tears at the piano; the whole thing felt very disjointed and just plain odd. The night ended with Swift acting as ringmaster of her very own circus while performing “We Are Never Getting Back Together”. Feeling very Britney Spears-esqe, it was a fitting way to end the pop-centric show; just not, perhaps, the most fitting way to end a Taylor Swift show.

Ed Sheeran, among others, kicked off the concert with hits like “The A-Team” and “Lego House”. His unique brand of on-stage remixing often lengthened songs quite a bit, leading him to preface “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” (with a little “Thirft Shop” thrown in for good measure) by telling the crowd with a grin “I hope you like it. If you don’t, it’s pretty long, so take a seat.”

Also on the bill was rising pop star Austin Mahone and up-and-coming country singer/Massachusetts-native Joel Crouse.

1.  State of Grace
2.  Holy Ground
3.  You Belong with Me
4.  Red
5.  The Lucky One
6.  Mean
7.  22
8.  Fearless
9.  Everything Has Changed (with Ed Sheeran)
10. Begin Again
11. Sparks Fly
12. You’re So Vain (with Carly Simon)
13. I Knew You Were Trouble
14. All Too Well
15. Love Story
16. Treacherous
17. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

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