Taylor Swift ‘speaks now’ at Staples Center

Taylor Swift. Whether you hate her or love her, there is no denying the girl knows how to perform. The 20-year-old country-pop superstar kicked off the California portion of her “Speak Now” tour this past week with four consecutive sold-out shows at the Staples Center in LA Live.

The show, more of a performance than a concert, featured a full cast of actors/dancers/musicians, an elaborate fairy-tale set, glittering special effects, awe-inspiring surprise guests, and 10, yes 10, costume changes.

Swift inaugurated the show with a dazzling (literally, there were sparkles everywhere) performance of “Sparks Fly” from her new album, which immediately propelled the teenybopper crowd out of their seats and into a dance and sing along lasting the entire duration of the concert.

She followed with a selection of songs, all punctuated with moments of her innate quirkiness, from her latest album “Speak Now,” dotted with a few older favorites including “Our Song,” “You Belong with Me,” an encore rendition of “Love Story” and an acoustic version of “Fearless,” the title track from her previous album.

Swift was joined onstage by a full ensemble of exceptionally talented actors/dancers/musicians who acted out the “stories” in her tale-telling tunes. During “Speak Now,” the song about a girl (Madame Swift herself, in this scenario) who “rudely barges in” on the wedding of another woman to Swift’s own true love, the cast re-enacted a full wedding onstage. Of course, Swift, always the starry-eyed underdog in her songs, successfully convinced her Prince Charming to “not say a single vow” and run away with her. Shocking, really.

Despite the cliché inherent in the elaborate performances of her songs, they were fun to watch. The show was truly a glittering spectacle, and the energy and raw talent of each member of her cast, the star herself included, was captivating.

It just wouldn’t be a Taylor Swift concert without a few surprise twists along the way. During a transition between songs, a confused-looking Ellen DeGeneres suddenly popped up onstage and joined Swift onstage for one of her songs, playing the triangle and shaking maracas in true Ellen style.

Toward the end of the show, Swift delighted the crowd by bringing out Nicki Minaj, clad in an alarming amount of neon spandex, and performed an unlikely duet of Minaj’s hit song “Super Bass.” Swift’s previous guests for the week include Justin Beiber, Hot Chelle Rae and Jason Mraz.

For the young, die-hard Taylor Swift enthusiasts who constituted the majority of the audience, the concert was a dream come true. But even for those dragged along, there is something about seeing the young starlet perform live that makes her hard to hate.

Maybe it’s the disbelieving, doe-eyed expression on her face after every single song as she stares out into the screaming crowd. Maybe it’s the way she segues into songs with comments like “I love you LA. You guys are so nice, and I love nice people. You know what I don’t like? When people are Mean” (Cue the song: “Mean.”) Perhaps it’s her characteristic red lips, lucky number “13” drawn on her hand or iconic hair-flips that would rival those any sorority girl.

Whatever it is, Taylor Swift is a born performer, and her “Speak Now” show was nothing less than magical.