Show Review & Photos: Taylor Swift @ Lumen Field

Taylor Swift @ Lumen Field – 7/22/23
Show Review by Lisa Hagen Glynn
Photos by Kirk Stauffer & Lisa Hagen Glynn

Taylor Swift – photo by Kirk Stauffer

The world’s biggest pop star came to Lumen Field, and Seattle’s Taylor Swift fans showed up—over 72,000 on this first night alone.

A digital countdown clock appeared onscreen, and the crowd shouted out the final seconds like a New Year’s Eve ball drop: “10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…” [collective shriek, cellphones up]. “It’s starting!” they screamed, hugging and jumping.

“It’s been a long time, it’s been a long time coming,” echoed the muted vocals, five years since Swift’s previous tour. Six dancers appeared, stepping gracefully in fan-shaped costumes that billowed like tie-dyed parachutes. They twirled, bowed forward, and reopened like flower petals, revealing Taylor Swift at the center. 

Swift rose on a platform while launching into “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince.” The country-turned-pop star wore a sequined bodysuit and sparkling knee-high boots—with a matching microphone, of course. The audience scream-sang “You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes” through tears of joy. “She’s so pretty,” someone squealed. The main event was underway.

A spectacle unusual to Seattle, Swift’s 3 hour, 20 minute set included equal parts Nashville broadcast, Las Vegas show, and Broadway production. The show was impeccably presented on a grand scale, replete with elaborate sets, full-cast costume changes, stunts, and pyrotechnics. It even made the earth shake with a magnitude of 2.3.

The music was organized into ten non-sequential “eras,” marking different albums of Swift’s 17-year career. The 45-ish songs skipped only her eponymous first release. Swift had been unable to tour on her latest four albums because of the pandemic, so decided to make the Eras Tour all-encompassing.

The band included two guitars, a bass, drums, three vocalists, and, indicative of Swift’s country-music roots, a mandolin. They sometimes tucked to the side under a canopy, and but often played front and center with Swift. Twenty or so dancers backed Swift in different configurations throughout the evening. Techs swapped out a few embellished pianos and at least a handful of sparkly guitars in festive colors. Countless crew, we can assume, managed the many transitions behind the scenes.

Swift herself was polished, practiced, and confident—yet still highly relatable in the improvised moments, poking fun at herself and taking an unexpected coughing fit in stride. Although they didn’t take much convincing, she engaged her Swifties era after era. They sang along with every single tune, bringing intimacy and communion to the gargantuan space.

Taylor Swift – photo by Kirk Stauffer

The evening started long before any bands stepped onstage. Seattle’s light rail cars were standing-room only, overflowing with mother–daughter pairs, groups of teen friends, and entire families. At the train station, Swifties added to a comical hodgepodge of Mariners fans and hot-pink-clad Barbie moviegoers, signs of Seattle’s brief and busy summer season.

The multitude heading toward the stadium wore uniforms but not jerseys—sequined/jeweled/fringed dresses, cowboy boots, curled long hair, cowboy hats, and wrists stacked with beaded friendship bracelets. LED bracelets distributed at the entrance would later glow in changing colors, creating a sky of twinkling stars.

Taylor Swift fans travel via light rail – photo by Lisa Hagen Glynn

Taylor Swift fans and Mariners fans line up – photo by Lisa Hagen Glynn

Swifties show their bracelets – photo by Lisa Hagen Glynn

Inside, the merch line wound around the ground floor of the arena, criss-crossing the lines for food and women’s restrooms. From this writer’s covetable 15th-row floor seat, the enormity of the stadium became apparent. Throughout two levels of stands, sequins shimmered and speckles of hot pink popped in the evening sun. The venue was abuzz in anticipation of the best night ever.

Gracie Abrams – photo by Kirk Stauffer

Pop singer–songwriter Gracie Abrams played the first opening set. “You all look so cool and good and sparkly,” Abrams exclaimed. She performed on guitar and vocals, accompanied by a three-piece band. Abrams’ lo-fi, indie-leaning sound mostly explores relationship dynamics—like a whispered cross between Swift’s Fearless and Folklore albums. Later in the evening, Swift would call the 23-year-old “a friend,” and ask fans to support her. But Abrams already had a Seattle following: Groups of teens knew all her lyrics, and the next day she sold out a solo performance at Easy Street Records. “Every single day of this tour has been a dream,” said Abrams earnestly, before starting up a solo intro to “I Miss You, I’m Sorry.”

Haim‘s Danielle Haim – photo by Kirk Stauffer

Next up was HAIM, which Swift later praised as “the best band who has ever lived.” Three multi-instrumentalist sisters appeared in matching black leather, playing bass, guitar, vocals, and plenty of floor toms. HAIM played a six-tune set of upbeat pop-rock that had the audience clapping overhead, while city scenes from what appeared to be Los Angeles flashed on the screen behind. They closed with “The Steps,” a twangy number that felt like a nod to Swift’s varied influences. It was their second tour with Swift, they said, having traveled together in 2015.

Lover (2019)

After her theatrical “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” entrance, Swift continued with “Cruel Summer” (not to be confused with the 1984 Bananarama song by the same name). While she sang about the complexities of summer romance over peppy beats, the LED bracelets started pulsing.

Swift then paused to point at sections of the crowd, who cheered on cue. “Seattle, you’re making me feel excellent right now. This could all go to my head—I just feel so powerful.” Swift threw on a sparkly sport coat and started up “The Man,” calling out sexism while dancers in business suits shimmied throughout a three-story office structure. Later in the Lover set, Swift recalled a diary entry she had made on a previous tour: “Seattle, Washington, is the best crowd I’ve ever played for.” Even if she says that in every city, Swifties ate it up. 

She continued with “You Need to Calm Down,” “Lover,” and “The Archer.” One the final tune of the era, she slinked down the vertical bar of the massive T-shaped stage; as Swift drew closer, larger than life, fans screamed “Oh my God,” and hit “Record.” She paused at runway’s end to look the front row in the eye, belt out a high note, and strike a pose—big bucks already well spent for those super-fans.

Fearless (2008)

After a surprisingly brief interlude, Swift returned in a sparky white bodysuit with long white fringe and knee-high boots. Her band, in casual concert black, appeared with Swift on the center diamond.

In a short-but-sweet set about teenage romance, Swift performed “Fearless,” “You Belong with Me” (arguably her best-known song), and “Love Story.” Nostalgia flowed, and almost everyone sang along. 

[Note: By this writer’s estimate, the first of two “Swift Quakes” also occurred during this era.]

Taylor Swift – photo by Kirk Stauffer

Evermore (2020)

Kicking off the next era, HAIM and Swift rose through the floor to perform “No Body, No Crime,” a dark tale about unconventional justice. “I think he did it but I just can’t prove it,” fans sang in unison. Although HAIM accompanied Swift on the album, this was the first time they had performed it with her on tour. Swift called this, “so much fun…performing with my best friends.” [Note: This song replaced “‘Tis the Damn Season” from her previous shows on the tour, and now seems to be a permanent switch.]

Swift said that the Eras Tour was, “the most truly magical experience of my entire life,” adding, “I’m not being hyperbolic.” Then she struck up “Willow,” followed by “Marjorie,” a tribute to her grandmother. In a touching moment, fans waved their cellphone flashlights as the sun sank below the horizon.

Swift wore a flowing bronze dress, encircled by a coven-like group of caped dancers. She sat at a piano covered in moss and lichens, true to the era’s forest theme, and performed “Champagne Problems.” Afterward, a chant of “Taylor!” moved Swift to become briefly tearful. She closed with “Tolerate It.”

Reputation (2017)

Setting a completely different mood, electronic snakes traversed the light-up floor, and Swift started up the dancey “…Ready for It?” She wore a black and red pantsuit–bodysuit adorned with sequined serpents, and carried a bad-ass snake mic. Flanked by background dancers in red and black, Swift and troupe rose from the floor to form a wall. She continued the era with “Delicate,” “Don’t Blame Me,” and “Look What You Made Me Do.”

Speak Now (2010)

Starting up a brief two-song era, Swift sang “Enchanted,” while wearing a Cinderella-esque white ball gown. Her band and a modern-ballerina accompaniment rejoined her at center stage. Old and new fans sang, “Enchanted to meet you-uuuuuuu.” LED bracelets blinked in purple and blue, and Swift closed with “Long Live.”

Red (2012)

Opening with dancers atop red platforms, Swift performed “22.”  Swift wore a “WHO’S TAYLOR SWIFT ANYWAY? EW.” t-shirt and black trilby. She gave the hat to a front-row fan wearing a pink boa, who looked like he might die of excitement. He mouthed “I love you,” as Swift bounded off to join her dancers in a can-can line.

Next up was “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” a straightforward, no-regrets message to an ex. She continued with, “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and closed with a guitar version of “All Too Well (10 Minute Version).”

Folklore (2020)

In another significant shift in mood, the introspective Folklore began with Swift seated atop a mossy wood-frame cabin with a smoking chimney. Swift said the cabin represented a “fantasy world” that allowed her an escape from the pandemic realities of being home and “covered in cat hair.” This night, though, Swift appeared elegant as the evening wind caught her white flowing dress. She moved downward from the roof to the lower floors of the structure throughout the set, eventually landing back onstage.

One of the albums first performed live on this tour, Folklore was well represented with seven tunes. Swift noted that the album represented an evolution to less “autobiographical” songwriting than her previous work.

She began with “The 1,” followed by “Betty,” “The Last Great American Dynasty,” “August,” and “Illicit Affairs.” In a pretty and mournful ode to relationship dissolution, Swift sang “My Tears Ricochet,” as dancers in sparkling gothic gowns stepped sorrowfully behind her. She closed with “Cardigan.” 

Taylor Swift – photo by Kirk Stauffer

1989 (2014)

Next up was the energetic, relationship-focused 1989 era. [Note: Swift just announced a new re-recording of the album1989 (Taylor’s Version), due out in October.]

Swift performed in a hot-pink fringed sequin skirt and bikini top. Her dancers wore prints in black, white, and grey, and at one point rode bicycles onstage.

After beginning with “Style” and “Blank Space,” Swift reached the catchy “Shake It Off,” a popular paean to letting go. Next up was “Wildest Dreams,” and the set concluded with “Bad Blood,” which incorporated both on-screen flames and audience-warming pyrotechnics.

Surprise Songs

Although Swift’s Eras sets are mostly identical, she changes up the “surprise” songs at each show. She admitted that she finds this acoustic solo portion of the evening of the show “a little nerve-wracking.”

This night included two songs that she had not performed live in many years. Starting off on guitar, Swift played “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” from Reputation. After moving to a flower-painted piano, she played “Everything Has Changed,” from Red. Although Swift was ostensibly alone onstage for the surprise songs, she of course never sang solo. Both tunes were performed as sing-alongs, and fans seemed thrilled to partake. 

Standing in a hot-pink ruffled dress, Swift dove gracefully through a trapdoor to exit the stage and the era. Although the stunt was one of few not visible from the floor, videos from the stands showed that the stage illuminated with a realistic video simulation of Swift plunging underwater and swimming up the runway.

Midnights (2022)

The final era represented Swift’s latest album. Dancers wheeled in whimsical carts that held clouds atop ladders. Swift wore a blue sequined bodysuit and garter with lavender fuzzy coat—later exchanged for a hot-pink fringed sequin one—and started up “Lavender Haze.” 

Next she performed “Anti-Hero,” followed by “Midnight Rain.” “Vigilante Shit,” a sultry tune with a line of chair-dancers and a risqué simulation by Swift, made the crowd scream.  “Bejeweled,” and “Mastermind” came next.

The night ended with “Karma.” Swift did a curtain call to acknowledge her musicians and dancers, fireworks popped, and confetti fell onto the cheering crowd. Midnights ended just short of 11:30.

Taylor Swift – photo by Kirk Stauffer

Tens of thousands of Swifties scrambled out of the stadium in hopes of an available light-rail car, with branded merch bags swinging, LED bracelets still blinking, and faces beaming. Swift asked the crowd to “make memories tonight,” and they did.

Swift would return Sunday to play a second sold-out show, before continuing the tour in the Bay Area. In her wake, Swift left a few surprises, including a significant donation to a Seattle food bank, and “life-changing” bonuses for her tour truck drivers.

Taylor Swift’s music provides all of what makes pop music popular—catchy melodies, danceable rhythms, clever but memorizable lyrics—but she has also succeeded across the country, folk, and electronic genres. Her less-acknowledged genius lies in her ability to connect with fans across demographics and include them in the Swiftie story.

Swift’s Lumen Field stop brought out over 140,000 Seattleites and visitors. King County even proclaimed a “Taylor Swift Week” related to the concerts. Swift’s U.S. shows were just one part of a now global cultural phenomenon, with seemingly endless demand. The world is waiting to see what the woman with the most number-one albums ever will do next.

Taylor Swift – photos by Kirk Stauffer

HAIM – all photos by Kirk Stauffer

Gracie Abrams – photos by Kirk Stauffer