Everything about Saturday night's Taylor Swift show at Bridgestone Arena was massive, beginning with the semis parked out in front bearing Swift's breezy visage and serving as humongous advertisements for the tour's sponsor, a cosmetics company. And to give you an idea of how elaborate the production was: During one song break, as back-up singers and dancers rushed offstage, a crew came out and gave the set a quick once-over with leaf-blowers, probably to clear away some of the fake snow that had fallen during "Back to December." Leaf blowers. So basically, the stage was so huge it had its own groundskeeping crew.
Across two expertly performed hours of her meticulously staged mega-gig, Swift popped up from and dropped down into the stage via a series of trapdoor platforms, one of which was big enough to accommodate her seated at a white grand piano. At one point she walked clear across the floor of the arena, hugging and high-fiving on her way to a giant tree, where she sat on a slowly rotating platform and strummed a ukulele for the solo acoustic portion of the set. And in spite of the gargantuan scale — when she put her hands up and made a heart shape (to symbolize the love she was feeling), roughly 30,000 hands shot up and made heart shapes back — she still looked out over the shrieking masses and introduced herself by saying simply, "Hi, I'm Taylor."
But let's back up a bit: Wearing our special pink bracelet, we headed to a pre-show party that was both backstage and above-stage. The usher told us to get off the elevator at "two star," which we guess is kinda like the two-and-a-halfth floor. And hey, believe it or not, The Spin went to a VIP party and didn't get kicked out! And when we spilled our beer while putting our makeup sample back in our complimentary purple satin Taylor Swift swag satchel, the bartender asked if we needed another one! High above the Bridgestone Arena stage, while Needtobreathe plowed through their torchy mid-tempo set much farther below us than we care to think about, we ate shrimp cocktail and looked at all the large plaques indicating that Taylor Swift has sold very many lots of records, including in Canada. (Her karaoke CD, which exists, apparently did really well there.)
Right around 7 p.m., on a small stage set up about 15 feet from the cast iron skillets full of buffalo wings, Big Machine honcho Scott Borchetta (whose Fu Manchu facial hair is utterly dazzling) gave a pep talk, mostly concerning how awesome Taylor Swift is. And then just like that, out popped the improbably tall T-Swizzle herself, who scanned the room as she referred to those assembled as "the pulse of Nashville" and expressed her gratitude many times over. Out came a big ol' plaque to commemorate Speak Now reaching five million copies sold — and Swift put her hand over her wide-open mouth and looked entirely shocked by the news, if you can believe that. She thanked everyone in the universe profusely and then, when a roar went up from the crowd way down below us, she said, "That's my cue," pointed to the plaque a final time and said, "That's a lot," then ducked out.
But the show's the thing, and it was awesome. There was pyro! (A big blast during "Dear John," a song that prompted a young lady near us to exclaim, "John Mayer!" several times, without further elaboration.) A semi-circular arched bridge — big enough for a dozen people, at least — got raised and lowered, raised and lowered. For the wedding-crasher mise-en-scene of "Speak Now," several rows of church pews found their way onstage, and if we had to guess, we'd say the fake wedding that took place for the duration of this song probably cost more than a lot of real weddings. At one point, Swift thwacked one of three enormous liberty-style bells, all of which were subsequently lifted into the air — and as they rose, out tumbled three aerialists, executing all sorts of spins and flips that looked not particularly easy to do while holding onto a rope 20 feet off the ground (and having just gotten your bell rung, so to speak). This effectively turned "Haunted" into a Swift du Soleil.
Here's something we've never thought: "Fearless" would be a better song if it was turned into a medley involving a Train song and a Jason Mraz song. We've still never thought that. But even that couldn't kill the mood. Swift didn't sing "Tim McGraw," but sang with Tim McGraw — they dueted on McGraw's "Just to See You Smile" as the finale of the main set. (We wondered how many times two singers who each have their own signature fragrance are onstage at the same time, and if that ever creates conflict. Like, one person's sandalwood notes start to overpower the other person's leathery waft. Anyway.) Swift didn't sing Big Star but did sing "Big Star" by and with Kenny Chesney, who looked like he had just come from watching golf and eating onion rings at Applebee's or something, in a slouchy baseball hat and some khakis. Dude was made for the stage.
And so was Swift, who sang, danced, whipped her hair back and forth, and delivered hit after hit — she's so prolific she didn't even play the song that made her a star in the first place. The encore, demanded by a category-five scream-storm, was short and sweet, consisting of "Fifteen" and a triumphant rendition of "Love Story" for which she floated all the way around the upper level of Bridgestone — all the way around it — on a flying balcony. In a way it was a metaphor for Swift herself — spotlights blazing, up where everyone could see her, and no one could touch her.