As the sun set over the Rose Bowl on Friday evening, the air fairly crackled with energy and excitement. Over 60,000 people had packed the Pasadena stadium for the Los Angeles leg of Taylor Swift’s reputation Stadium Tour.
The audience’s anticipation was palpable, bolstered by spirited performances by opening acts Charli XCX and Camila Cabello. When Swift finally burst onto the stage in a blaze of crimson and a plume of smoke, the audience erupted, exploding into an elated ovation that even prompted an amazed reaction from the veteran performer.
“Well, hello Los Angeles,” Swift purred, a smile painted on her scarlet red lips.
Swift performed 14 out of 15 tracks off her reputation album, excluding only “So It Goes…” The album’s darker, edgier tone translated to the concert’s concept and production, with backup dancers swathed in menacing black cloaks and larger-than-life projections of Swift framed by a steely industrial backdrop.
The singer eschewed subtlety in favor of a full embrace of her reptilian transformation. She sported snakeskin print leotards, a Gucci-style snake embroidered jacket and even a golden serpent twined around her microphone. But it was the set pieces that featured the most overt imagery; during “Look What You Made Me Do,” an enormous ruby-eyed cobra uncoiled from the stage. Swift as a performer was sleek and sinuous, strutting smoothly in sky-high boots and seamlessly transitioning between songs. Though it was her first time performing at the Rose Bowl, Swift looked right at home, a feat only a seasoned artist of her caliber could pull off.
Fostering a sense of intimacy with fans in the massive venue, Swift’s star power was truly on display, however, when the flashy visuals disappeared and she held the audience spellbound with nothing but her commanding stage presence. During “Delicate,” she was the embodiment of ethereality, floating in a golden cage above a sea of shimmering wristbands; she played pared down versions of “Long Live” and “New Year’s Day” on the piano and stripped away the synthy electronic accoutrements of “Dancing With Our Hands Tied,” leaving only a girl and her guitar.
But Swift bounced back with her signature high-energy bops before long. Charli XCX and Cabello returned to the stage for a fun, confetti-filled dance party with “Shake It Off,” and Shawn Mendes made a special guest appearance to sing “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.” The show ended with a blast, literally, as fireworks launched into the sky during the exuberant, celebratory closing number “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” Swift frolicking around in a fully functional water fountain like a phoenix risen from the ashes.
Reputation is hardly Swift’s first rodeo; it is her fifth concert tour, and she is known to be an extremely meticulous, detailed-oriented artist. From the opening montage that spliced together disparaging comments made by Swift’s critics, to the behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage that kept the audience rapt as they shuffled out of the stadium, the slick, glossy production of the reputation Stadium Tour is unparalleled. With her latest showstopper, Swift proves that her only competition is herself.