On Stage: Taylor Swift’s Rollicking Romp

by Erica Moody

Partisan “Bad Blood” set aside as D.C. unites for Swift. 

By John Arundel

Taylor Swift in concert (Photo by John Arundel)

Taylor Swift in concert (Photo by John Arundel)

Republicans and Democrats seem to unite over few things in our Nation’s Capital, but Taylor Swift brought 90,000 of them together at Nationals Park for two sold-out nights last week, for a rollicking two-hour romp through her biggest hits, followed by fireworks. The pop starlet, with 50 million albums sold, brought her celebrated “1989” Tour from New York to Washington, along with a twist of controlled mayhem rarely seen in this buttoned-up city.

Faux Twitter sightings of Swift touring the Capitol Dome and a cleverly imagined “Taylor Swift Reception” on Capitol Hill produced near stampedes among summer interns on the Hill. The normally plodding-and-authoritative Washington Post published an exhaustive – and speculative – piece guessing which landmarks the pop superstar might visit after dark (none of them, it turned out).

Fox 5’s weatherman Mike Thomas spliced T-Swift lyrics and a few Swift puns into his weathercast for concertgoers, in a very special forecast which quickly went viral and earned a Tweet-out from the pop diva herself.

No fights over partisanship or those pricey Taylor Swift tickets broke out, we are told, and with Donald Trump’s orange hairpiece safely placed in Arizona and out of Swift’s way, no fewer than 19 lawmakers and political action committees used the opportunity to host high-dollar fundraisers in private sky suites at Nationals Park to raise campaign funds for fall campaigns.

Taylor Swift in concert (Photo by John Arundel)

Taylor Swift in concert (Photo by John Arundel)

Among those was Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), whose daughter Clara Beyer created the viral @FeministTSwift Twitter account, which adapts lyrics of the singer-songwriter into feminist quips. “This came from a desire to find more interesting ways for donors to deliver the check,” Beyer said in interview with National Journal. “For poor government-affairs people, concerts provide a more fun campaigning experience, since they spend so much time having lunches at Charlie Palmer’s.”

And fun was produced, by Swift and her merry band of gal pals and fellow male artists who flew into the city to entertain us in the most dazzling ways of theatrical-musical performance.

"Swifties" at the show (Photos by John Arundel and Cecilie Olaussen)

“Swifties” at the show (Photos by John Arundel)

The Grammy-winning performer Lorde flew 19 hours from her home in New Zealand for a surprise on-stage collaboration with Swift, as the two belted out a riveting performance of “Royals” like two long-lost friends at a sing-along.

Many of her “super fans,” or “Swifties” as they’re called, streamed into Nationals Park hours before the show with breathless anticipation, wearing skin-tight sequined dresses or Starbucks outfits which matched Swift’s fashion forward style, or which comically played off lyrics from her set list, filled with songs about boys foolish enough to burn her.

Between numerous costume and set changes, the crowd was regaled on Jumbotrons with testimonials from her famous friends — Lena Dunham, Selena Gomez and the Haim sisters – as well as a few tips from TS on better Ladyhood. Most revealing example: “I’m obsessed with good breath,” Swift informed us. “I carry flavor mints and Listerine strips in my purse, everywhere I go.”

Taylor Swift fans (Photo by John Arundel)

Taylor Swift fans, or “Swifties” (Photo by John Arundel)

After warm-up acts by Swift faves Vance Joy, Shawn Mendes and Haim, Swift herself bounced onto stage just after 8:30 pm, prancing, strutting and confidently stomping down a long jetway jutting out into a sea of shrieking, clearly delighted fans, whose light-up bracelets changed colors to the beat of her first tune of the night, “Welcome to New York.”

Swift brought her fans to high-decibel sing-alongs with newer boy-crazy hits from her record-selling “1989” album, including the skillfully-executed “New Romantics,” “Blank Space,” “Bad Blood,” “Shake it Off” and “I Wish You Would.” The hits kept coming, as Swift launched into Nashville-tinged favorites like “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “Love Story.”

After bringing out Lorde the first night, expectations were set high for the second night’s guest act, and Swift did not disappoint. “When I thought about who to bring out tonight,” she said. “I thought—what’s the artist that everyone is listening to this summer? What’s at the top of the charts? What’s the real song of summer? Jason Derulo!”

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Taylor Swift in concert (Photo by John Arundel)

“Want to Want Me” was sung by the duo with lusty vigor, with Derulo unbuttoning his shirt with each new note, before tearing it off completely by the end of the song.

Swift then returned to her solo routine, first playing the piano and then picking up a guitar for “How You Get the Girl,” “I know Places” and “You Belong with Me,” songs which she belted out on high from the cat’s eye perch of a crane which elevated her 100 feet or so above the Nats Park crowd.


Taylor Swift in concert (Photo by John Arundel)

While Swift and her posse of attitudinal dancers and backup singers appeared to effortlessly glide in and out of multiple costume changes and a 17-song playlist, the aforementioned crane produced the only glitch of the show, but only on the first night, when the lift appeared to malfunction.

Like a true pro – and one who appears to be skillfully unafraid of heights – Swift took it all in stride, completely un-phased by the glitch: “This thing is acting really weird because it got rained on and I think it broke,” she announced. “They just told me in my ear I might be stuck up here forever.”

swift on stage

Taylor Swift in concert (Photo by John Arundel)

When the crane brought Swift back down to earth – and to what must have been another exhausting costume change – she ended the concert with a bang, her megahit “Shake It Off” delivered to the popping of fireworks exploding overhead.

“I’m smiling so much,” Swift said to her worshipful fans, in parting. “I feel like I’ve been standing here all night with 45,000 of my friends…Thank you, Washington.”

In the end, it mattered to few in the crowd whether Swift talked politics or identified herself as either a D or an R. “I don’t think it’s my job to try and influence people which way they should vote,” Swift has said in interviews.

Taylor Swift (Photo by Cecilie Olaussen)

Taylor Swift (Photo by John Arundel)

She has supported the Every Woman Counts Campaign, aimed at engaging women in the political process, and describes herself as a feminist.

“Her live vocal power blew me away,” said Isa Adney, a writer and TV host who flew up from Tampa to catch Swift’s D.C. show. “The emotional range in which she performs highlights new lyrics, new moments in the songs that you might not have noticed before…She owned the stage in a way I’ve never seen a young woman do in my life. And it was flat out empowering.”

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