Taylor Swift, gig review: 'Overblown pop from a genuine talent'

4.00

O2 Arena, London: Swift's charisma carries us through the cheese

It's not really country. It's pop. Overblown, gaudy pop, with a huge band, multi-level stages, numerous outfit changes (mostly sparkly) and a troupe of dancers, played out in front of a sea of glow batons and riotous shrills. It's more Bonnie Tyler than Patsy Cline and every utterance and movement feels choreographed.

However, Taylor Swift's Red Tour is a compelling spectacle and the multi-millionaire is a genuine talent and an adroit lyricist. The 24-year-old songwriter knows her market and London (or “Fundon”) loves her. It feels like a US election rally or an evangelist meeting. Her faithful, ostensibly teenage girls (the bar areas are almost entirely empty), know - and sing - every word of her (mostly) heartbreak numbers.

“You can take me down with just one single blow,” maintains America's sweetheart on one of tonight's highlights “Mean”. It’s doubtful any meanie could flatten this willowy force of nature. Taylor might have been subjected to some spiteful barbs for losing out (and head-banging to “All Too Well”, which she does again here) at the Grammy's and she’s under an intense media glare for her famous exes (Harry Styles, John Mayer, Jake Gyllenhaal etc) but what’s obvious is that Swift is a gifted musician. She plays the banjo, guitar and piano for pity’s sake. She is “so money” as Vince Vaughn's Trent would say in Swingers.

This is the first of the Nashville-based artist's five O2 dates and the set mainly focuses on numbers from her fourth album, the mega-selling Red. It's her strongest record yet and full of lyrical zingers such as “I’ve loved in shades of wrong“ on "State of Grace" and "I'm really gonna miss you picking fights" on the fearsomely addictive "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together".

Swift has been knocked for (sort of) naming and shaming former lovers in her songs - but it's always been so. Also see Dylan, Cohen and Lennon. Male songwriters have always done it.

Every song seems to signal another costume change (Union Jack top, Marie Antoinette garb, scarlet cape dress etc) and sometimes the choreography, endless catwalk-model strutting, lengthy pre-song preambles (“No matter how hard you try you can't make someone like you if they don't and that's okay”) and fireworks do seem like a fearful faff and we could have done without the home footage of Swift performing from infancy to adulthood before the winsome “22”.

However, Swift's committed song delivery and obvious charisma carry us through the cheese. And on “You Belong with Me” and “I Knew You Were Trouble” she recalls the likes of Sister Sledge and The Supremes. Perfect, perky pop.

The screams are a constant but they go up a few notches with the introduction of Swift's new bestie mate, Ed Sheeran, who delivers a charming version of “Lego House”. She sweetly lets the Suffolk singer take centre stage - which is very un-diva like.

Swift, despite losing out at the Grammy's, is clearly at the top of her game and could well be at the pinnacle of her fame, which is always an intoxicating thing to witness. Her time is now.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices