The most bewildering moments in Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version)

The phenomenally successful concert movie of Taylor Swift’s phenomenally successful concert tour is now available to stream at home. Self-described “absolute median Taylor Swift enjoyer” Amelia Berry dives into what is both a slick and energetic showcase and a totally astonishing OTT mish-mash.

Who is Taylor Swift? As her star has ascended, taking her from regular old pop singer to major cultural phenomenon, it’s become increasingly difficult to follow her career. New albums come out alongside re-recordings of old albums, all accompanied by cryptic advertising campaigns and increasingly dense self-mythologising lyrics. The fandom itself seems to have divided into ideological sects, drawn together by conspiratorial whispering about Swift’s true character and hidden authentic self.

I am not a hater. Nor am I a Swiftie. I am the absolute median Taylor Swift enjoyer. Some of her songs are great. Some aren’t. I try to keep up with the singles, maybe give the albums a spin, maybe not. None of this prepared me for TS’s recent concert film, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version)— now streaming on Disney+. It is a slick and energetic showcase of a singer/songwriter at the height of her powers, drawing you into the effervescent energy of a powerhouse stadium performance. It’s also a totally astonishing mish-mash of fifteen different brands of over-the-top, skipping giddily from shredding guitar solos to sad pantomime, from shoddy CG to vogue death-drops.

For the similarly uninitiated, here are my most bewildering moments from Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version).

Era 1: Lover

After an ominous 13-second countdown (apparently, her favourite number), Taylor emerges from a cocoon of enormous Cirque du Soleil silk fans, dressed in pastel leotard heavy with rhinestones—“my name is Taylor, and I was born in 1989!” It’s immediately striking just how camp the whole thing is. It’s Vegas by way of Nashville, and this does basically seem to be Swift’s gold lamé suit era. Things ratchet up for The Man, and Swift dons a massive glittering blazer—suddenly surrounded by dancers in oversized business casual, miming at typewriters, and surrounded by just too many disposable coffee cups.

The campness could be the point though, as a huge stadium drum fill (yes!) transitions us into You Need To Calm Down whose lyrics (according to the subtitles) are “Why are you mad? When you could be GLAAD?”.

Era 2: Fearless

As we move into Era 2, I was convinced I had a handle on it—it’s OTT, it’s Broadway, there’s fringe, there’s rhinestones, that’s the show!

But then we get to Love Story. At the end of the first chorus she sings “baby just say yes!”, leans forward, nods her head, and does an enormous thumbs up. It’s oddly reminiscent of Wayne from Wayne’s World (Zang!). Why did this moment stand out so starkly? Is this the real Taylor Swift? This is when I realised I was being pulled into the rabbit hole, and it was only just beginning.

Era 3: Evermore

Cut to: ‘EVERMORE’ projected against a line of dark trees. In possibly the Da Vinci code font. Taylor is surrounded by cloaked figures carrying huge lanterns and it feels like The Wicker Man: A Disney Channel Original. Everything about this is bananas. Soon a grand piano is rolled out, covered in hobby shop moss and lichen. A woman in a sequined t-shirt dress with ridiculous 80’s shoulder pads plays a sad lament while Taylor pantomimes setting a table for two. She sings Tolerate It on top of the table on all fours while a male dancer sits at the other end looking desolate. This is a form of art we are yet to properly categorise.

Era 4: Reputation

I lied earlier. When I said I wasn’t a hater, I lied. I hate Reputation, and Swift’s excellent dad-rock live band is not enough to save these songs. There are bejewelled snakes everywhere, and the lead guitarist pulls out an Eddie Van Halen signature strat to play a ridiculous shredding guitar solo on Don’t Blame Me. It’s not enough. They turn Look What You Made Me Do into an uplifting Meatloaf rock opera number and it’s still not enough.

Era 5: Speak Now

This is just one song? The theme is lavender.

Era 6: Red

It really seemed like this era was bringing us back to earth, but then Swift dons a trench coat so caked in glitter that it would make Liberace blush and asks the audience if they have ten minutes to spare. Those more familiar with Swift might be screaming right now that of course, this is All Too Well, her lengthy heart-rending ballad about having an affair with a predatory older man. For me, this was a bit like Pink swinging into a full-length rendition of The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald. You know what though? Good song. Finally… a glimpse of the real Taylor Swift!

Era 7: Folklore

“I brought the Folklore house to LA!” I had to google what the Folklore house was (it’s not on the record cover) and was immediately greeted by a slew of Reddit threads getting exegetical about the meaning of a different symbolic house, the Eras house. Everything here holds a deeper meaning—I will never know the truth. After the excellent Springsteen-esque Betty, I was tempted to learn more about the ‘gaylor’ Taylor Swift lesbian conspiracy, but thought better of it.

Era 8: 1989 / Era 9: “acoustic”

I had thought Evermore was our Spinal Tap moment but then for 1989 Taylor Swift has a bunch of people riding neon bicycles around the stage in circles. Then they all get neon golf clubs and “smash” a projection of a sports car. Visually, it’s quite odd! But it’s nothing compared to when Taylor dives into the stage, becoming a projection, and swimming down the catwalk, only to be washed away by a kinda cheap-looking wave effect. The acoustic section is a nice palette cleanser, but absolutely should not count as an era. It’s not an era!

Era 10: Midnights

Taylor ends her show like an old episode of Drag Race—with an awkward costume reveal and some contextually inappropriate death-drops. Well, the death drops are her dancers not her, but the costume reveal is all Swift. When we see that sparkly t-shirt dress, we all know what’s about to happen, Taylor!

So is this the real TS, the one flashing a heavily jewelled garter while she says “Everybody is a sexy baby”? It’s impossible to know. Maybe it’s better to just let yourself get caught up in the emotion, and the sequins… and the rhinestones… and the glitter… and the fringe… and just the pure, stupid, showbiz of it all. I know I did.