Falling In Love With Taylor Swift Again At The Rose Bowl

Falling In Love With Taylor Swift Again At The Rose Bowl


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I am an unapologetic and unabashed fan of Taylor Swift and her music. Before she became a global pop icon, she was a 16-year-old country singer-songwriter that wrote about her heartbreaks and some guy named Drew. And although I was not a teenage girl in high school, I still related to the emotions and honesty of what she was writing about.

For some reason or another, it took me nearly 12 years, but I finally attended one of her concerts and it was good as I’d hope.

I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool…Sort Of

Growing up in Southern California in the 90s, I had next to no exposure to country music. On an afternoon drive, I was mindlessly scanning the radio stations. The traffic light turned green and I stopped on a country station. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was listening to some Shania Twain, George Strait, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw. This was around 1998.

It was with Cyndi Thomson’s “What I Really Meant To Say” in 2001 that I finally admitted my love for country music. I weathered the eyes rolls from my friends when I said it was my favorite musical genre. When Carrie Underwood won American Idol and stormed the Billboard 100 in 2004, country became mainstream cool. I had my moment of vindication.

After Rascal Flatt’s cover of “What Hurts The Most” in 2006, I decided I wanted to write a hit country song myself. It’s still on my Bucket List. This was around the same time Taylor Swift was coming out with her singles and it was hard not to like her catchy pop-country tunes.

It started with “Tim McGraw,” and “Tied Together With A Smile,” then “Invisible.” Even her original holiday number, “Christmases When You Were Mine” was catchy. I kept listening hit after hit, as her style evolved over the years.

Eventually, it wasn’t even country anymore, but it was still quintessentially Taylor. I’ve loved so many songs from each new album that I wondered when she’d run dry of that creativity. Her latest album, Reputation, certainly marked the biggest departure from what we’ve known as Taylor. In light of everything that’s been going on in her life, this might just be the most raw version of the songstress that we’ve heard yet.

You Had Me At Floor Seats

Flash forward to last Saturday. A friend posted up two floor seat tickets for Taylor’s Rose Bowl concert in Los Angeles. I was in town anyway, so the timing worked out perfectly. My concert companion would be my 17-year-old cousin, Katie, who shares my same enthusiasm and knows all the words to Taylor’s latest album. The pieces just fell into place.

I would have been happy with any seat, just to be able to sing along my cousin, but floor seats just put it over the top.

Me and my cousin attending Taylor Swift Rose Bowl Concert

The Taylor Swift’s Era

We showed up early to have some time to walk around som before  Charlie XCX and Camila Cabello’s opening acts. We picked up our floor access wrist bands and headed for the Fujifilm Instax “polaroids” booth.

Instax Polaroids at Taylor Swift at Rose Bowl During Reputation Stadium Tour Concert

We were also given PixMob bracelets that are wirelessly controlled to light up and sync during the concert. It’s a pretty cool technology that uses the crowd as a canvas for a synchronized light show.

PixMob Bracelet At Taylor Swift concert

Before settling into our seats, we wandered closer to the stage during the opening acts. Much of the section was still empty. I expected quite a few celebrities to show up, since this was Los Angeles, and I was right. Kobe Bryant just happened to walk by on the way to his seats.

Kobe Bryant at Taylor Swift Rose Bowl Concert

Charlie XCX kicked it off with “Boom Clap” in an outfit I’d describe as underwear under a see-through poncho suit. It was cool.

Camila Cabello came on and threw down with some sick salsa moves as day moved into night. As expected, she closed with her hit “Havana.” Both great opening acts.

Camila Cabello performing opening act at Taylor Swift Rose Bowl Reputation Tour Concert

But we hadn’t seen anything yet.

…Ready For It?

When Taylor came out, it was to the raucous roar of a 60000-strong crowd – it was electric. For the next 2.5 hours, our favorite heartbroken lyric queen performed 26 songs covering practically the entire Reputation album and peppering in favorites from her past albums.

Starting with “…Ready For It?” it was just a non-stop song to song explosion of choreography, seamless wardrobe change, and pyrotechnics.

Taylor Swift's Opening Act at Rose Bowl During Reputation Stadium Tour Concert

As an endurance athlete, I could not help but admire how fresh she still looked by the time she performed “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” to close out the show.

The production itself was mind-blowing, but a lot of it hinged on her ability to nail all the choreography, stage movements, and lyrics across 150 minutes. And she did it flawlessly with an air of ease that showed no sign of tour rust.

When she took her first break to talk to the crowd and introduced “Gorgeous,” I randomly happened to be counting the number of times she said, “um” and the grand total was 1. So polished.

The Old Taylor Is Gone

Look What You Made Me Do” brought out the production big guns in the form of a giant cobra that hovered and stalked behind Taylor. It was preceded by an intro video with Tiffany Haddish doing a refrain from the song:

“The old Taylor can’t come to the phone.”

“Why?”

“Oh, ’cause she’s dead!”

Taylor made a point of explaining the significance of this defiance and the adopting of the snakes theme, something she embraced after being called one on social media last year. This was definitely shade thrown at Kim Kardashian and I was all for it.

Taylor Swift's Giant Cobra at Rose Bowl During Reputation Stadium Tour Concert

Every song was accompanied by giant visuals that blended the live performance footage with a music video styling. It was incredibly well done and I was blown away that this was all in real time. Some of the video graphics looked so realistic and three-dimensional that I could see how it replaced real set props without compromise.

ROSE BOWL SET LIST
  1. …Ready For It?
  2. I Did Something Bad
  3. Gorgeous
  4. Style / Love / You Belong To Me
  5. My My My! w/ Troye Sivan
  6. Look What You Made Me Do
  7. End Game
  8. King Of My Heart
  9. Delicate
  10. Shake It Off
  11. All Too Well
  12. Dancing With Our Hands Tied
  13. Blank Space
  14. Dress
  15. Bad Blood / Should’ve Said No
  16. Hands To Myself w/ Selena Gomez
  17. Don’t Blame Me
  18. Long Live / New Year’s Day
  19. Getaway Car
  20. Call It What You Want
  21. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together /
  22. This Is Why We Can’t  Have Nice Things

But The Old Taylor Is Not Dead

To not alienate those concert goers who may not be fully familiar all the songs from her latest album, Taylor threw it back pretty early on with a mix that combined “Style“, “Love Story” and “You Belong To Me“. You could noticeably hear the crowd’s sing-a-long decibel go up.

The day before, she surprised everyone by bringing out singer Shawn Mendes, so expectations were pretty high for tonight. She ended the first act bringing out Troye Sivan as her special guest and they performed his hit “My My My!” together, much to approval of the crowd.

Halfway through the show, Taylor did something that you always hope for if you aren’t in the front row. She hopped into a glittering basket that carried her across the stadium to a smaller stage right in the middle of the crowd. Then she dropped her latest single, “Delicate,” followed by “Shake It Off,” bringing Camila and Charlie XCX back on stage.

Everything was turned up to 11.

Taylor Swift In Wire Basket at Rose Bowl Reputation Tour Concert

Every Fan Matters

Earlier in the night while addressing the crowd, she had said, “if you think I can’t see you in the top rows, you’re wrong, I can see you.” This is just a part of what makes her so well-loved by her fans.

As popular as she has become, she is still relatable and accessible, whether it’s through her bringing in hard core fans for a private preview of Reputation, interacting with fans on social media, or picking a few diehards from the crowd for a meet and greet after the concert.

To slow things down, she performed a stripped down acoustic version of her most requested song, “All Too Well.” I turned to face the back of the stadium and it was mesmerizing to see all the lights pulse and surround Taylor like a sea of stars.

Taylor Swift at Rose Bowl Reputation Tour Concert

To not leave the other side of the stadium feeling left out, she jumped off one stage and walked to the other –  high-fiving a number of lucky fans along the way. For some reason, I noticed people moving out of their seats and filling into the empty space around the stage.

My cousin was already moving along in this group, so I jump from my seat as well. I didn’t want to be responsible for losing her, but also, who doesn’t want to get closer. Especially for “Blank Space.”

“Why She Disappeared”

When she fell, she fell apart.
Cracked her bones on the pavement she once decorated
as a child with sidewalk chalk
When she crashed, her clothes disintegrated and blew away
with the winds that took all of her fair-weather friends

When she looked around, her skin was spattered with ink
forming the words of a thousand voices
Echoes she heard even in her sleep:
“Whatever you say, it is not right.”
“Whatever you do, it is not enough.”
“Your kindness is fake.”
“Your pain is manipulative.”

When she lay there on the ground,
She dreamed of time machines and revenge
and a love that was really something,
Not just the idea of something.

When she finally rose, she rose slowly
Avoiding old haunts and sidestepping shiny pennies
Wary of phone calls and promises,
Charmers, dandies and get-love-quick-schemes

When she stood, she stood with a desolate knowingness
Waded out into the dark, wild ocean up to her neck
Bathed in her brokenness
Said a prayer of gratitude for each chink in the armor
she never knew she needed
Standing broad-shouldered next to her
was a love that was really something,
not just the idea of something.

When she turned to go home,
She heard the echoes of new words
“May your heart remain breakable
But never by the same hand twice”
And even louder:
“without your past,
you could never have arrived-
so wondrously and brutally,
By design or some violent, exquisite happenstance
…here.”

And in the death of her reputation,
She felt truly alive.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, it was a smart move from concert security to just let this happen. Despite the chaos, everyone was surprisingly respectful.

After she zipped back to the main stage via a snake shaped cage basket, some fanatical fans tried to rush the stage and this was where things got a little messy.

When Taylor welcomed Selena Gomez as a second surprise guest, everyone went crazy. We finally it back to our seats during “Hands To Myself.” I remember noticing at this point just how long the concert had gone on for; we were at the 2 hour mark with no signs of it ending anytime soon. And that was fine with me.

Remember This Moment

My favorite sequence of song came next in the form of a “Long Live” / “New Year’s Day” medley on a grand piano. This closed out the fifth set, followed by a short video interlude over her “Why She Disappeared” poem.

In this piece, she talked about some recent experiences that left her battered and “bathing in her brokenness,” but arriving to the end of that journey a stronger person. It was well-written and read very sincerely.

The video segued into a beautiful performance of “Getaway Car” that looked like it came straight out of a music video. Of course, all good things must come to an end. And the end finally arrived with a flourish.

When she jumped around the stage getting completely soaked during the performance of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” you got the sense of finality. Taylor came and accomplished exactly what she wanted to do following a rough couple of years in the headlines of the tabloids. It was a declaration that reports of her fall from the spotlights were premature. That Taylor Swift was back, if she was ever gone.

Taylor Swift at Rose Bowl During Reputation Stadium Tour Concert

At The End

For me, it’s been a fun journey to follow along as Taylor’s style has evolved from album to album. While fans of her country days may lament, she balances the changes by continuing to write from her personal experiences. I think this resonates with her loyal fans who want to hear Taylor Swift be herself, regardless of the style.

Her messages hit because she makes her experiences, remarkable and outlandish, relatable. I’m glad to see her back having weathered the media scrutiny of the past couple of years. I started enjoying Taylor’s music 12 years ago and I will continue to enjoy it today and as long as she keeps writing. Haters be damned.

Updated on May 13, 2024

3 Comments

  • Christina
    6 years ago

    Great post! I was there that night too! Do you remember her intro for All Too Well? (Not word for word but anything you remember!) That’s my favorite song of hers and I was too excited and forget what she said before playing!

    • 6 years ago

      Unfortunately, I can’t remember much else other than that she said it’s one of her most requested songs when she’s performing. Amazing show though right?

  • […] Our first task was to gather up what we would need for the next 24 hours and start on a 12-mile “warm up” run to Old Town Pasadena. We were purposely kept in the dark about how the scoring worked, but if there were points to earn, I wanted to make sure I stayed near the front-runners. This pushed me a little harder than I should have gone out at this stage, but I arrived somewhere in the top 10, and even managed to buy some Taylor Swift tickets during the run. […]

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