In the five years since the Reputation Stadium Tour, Taylor Swift has released four new studio albums – Lover (2019), Folklore (2020), Evermore (2020), and Midnights (2022) – as well as re-recordings, known as Taylor’s Version, of Fearless and Red. This prolific output demands a live experience unlike any other and The Eras Tour stop at Soldier Field on June 3 – the second of three sold-out dates in Chicago – exceeded even the most wild of expectations.
“Chicago, Illinois on a Saturday night,” Swift said early in the night during the Lover portion of the show. “I have to be honest with you. You guys are making me feel excellent right now.”
Swift wasn’t the only one feeling most excellent. The entire venue lit up with ever-increasing joy as the show progressed through each of the distinct eras of her career. Evermore was bathed in a witchy, wooded aura as Swift sang softly while strobes enhanced the rebellious spirit of “…Ready for It?,” which ushered in the Reputation portion of the show – a segment that showcased Swift’s incredible vocal highs during “Don’t Blame Me.”
The Red chapter was playful, 1989 gave fans everything they needed to sing at the top of their lungs, and “Enchanted” – the sole representation from Speak Now – felt like a fairy tale as Swift, flanked by her incomparable dancers, donned a dress fit for a princess. Swift navigated a cozy cabin – from atop the grassy roof to scaling its dramatic staircase – as she sang Folklore favorites like “The 1,” “The Last Great American Dynasty,” and “Cardigan.” Before playing “Betty” on her acoustic guitar, she explained that much of Folklore – which she started writing two days into the pandemic – was inspired by a narrative character arc dubbed the “teenage love triangle.”
The massive production of The Eras Tour is an undertaking typically reserved for a static setting like a Broadway musical or a Las Vegas residency, not a traveling show. On this Saturday night, each carefully considered element – including costume changes, elaborate sets, confetti falling like snow – transformed the venue, which is (for now) the home of the Chicago Bears, into a dazzling wonderland for the senses. On top of all the talent behind the scenes, there’s the jaw-dropping skills of the people giving their all on stage. From the dozens of dancers who flipped, biked, and twirled the night away to the talented live band including guitarist Paul Sidoti – who melted faces during the extended outro of “The Archer” – each person on stage was performing at the top of their game, but none more so than Swift herself.
With a musical extravaganza like The Eras Tour, much of the show must be pre-planned to ensure that every element is executed without a hitch. Still, Swift – always in the moment – took any opportunity she could to connect with the crowd in unique ways. After giving the hat she wore while performing “22” to an adorable fan, Swift had a momentary blank brain glitch that led her to almost bring the youngster on stage, which, she later explained was impossible due to logistics.
“That child was so adorable that I tried to make her a part of the show,” she said adding that she was also blown away by all of the fans performing their hearts out in the crowd.
Elsewhere, Swift’s eyes welled with tears as the audience cheered her performance of “Champagne Problems” and the Surprise Songs portion of the show found her playing “You All Over Me” live for the very first time joined by special guest Maren Morris who appears on Fearless (Taylor’s Version).”
“I thought it would be so cool to have one of my favorite artists sing on one of the songs that was from the vault and we are lucky, Chicago, because not only did that artist say yes to sing on the song – Maren Morris is actually here tonight,” Swift said to deafening cheers.
The tour debut of “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” further gave Chicago fans a rare Eras experience.
When stadium level artists tour, they often pepper in new material like it’s medicine that’s best consumed between spoonfuls of sugary hits. This method can almost feel apologetic and tends to serve as an excuse for fans to take a seat for a song or two. This was not the case with Taylor Swift. Her latest release, Midnights – arguably her most layered, intricate, interesting, and unexpected album to date – closed the show much to the delight of everyone within earshot (fans without tickets were lined-up around Soldier Field to hear the set). With songs like “Lavender Haze,” “Anti-Hero,” “Bejeweled,” and “Karma,” Midnights is further evidence of Swift’s unmatched ability as a songwriter whose musical exploration makes fans feel at home while taking them to new sonic spaces.
The show’s 3.5 hour runtime and its 44-song setlist flew by as the crowd was swept away in a flurry of songs that have been, and will continue to be the soundtrack of their lives. Swift – always one to trust her instincts and follow her heart – broke all the conventional concert rules to give fans a night they will never forget.
(Photos courtesy of TAS Rights Management)