TAYLOR SWIFT – HYDE PARK 27th June 2015
And it came to pass; Taytay hit the London BST festival in Hyde Park. I was there, the sun was there, my two pre-teen daughters were there and, er, 64,997 others.
Taylor Swift has re-invented herself in the last few years from curly haired country singer doing spots in the Hannah Montana movie, to a global, all conquering pop princess.
Now I have a confession; this isn’t the first time I’ve seen Ms. Swift perform. I went along to the O2 last Feb to see the tail end of her Red Tour. My house and car – if my daughters have anything to do with it, and they do - reverb to the sounds of Taylor 24/7. I’ve become a Swiftie by osmosis. Perhaps there’s an element of Stockholm syndrome…
We got to Hyde Park early, just as the gates opened. I’d bought premium view tickets, an exclusive enclosure in front of the sweating hordes pressed against the barriers. Got some laminates with a map and timings to hang around our necks. Pint of cider and two J2Os secured, we settled down to watch the support acts.
Newbie Rae Morris started things off, she was good though she did sometimes waver out of tune. I’m glad she played her hit Under The Shadows (though inexplicably not Cold) and so escaping the curse of the under card. Riptide bloke played Riptide. We were out in the park getting Rendang at the time and so missed all of it apart from the last chorus. I feel okay about that. John Newman, doing some nifty dance moves, was somewhat miffed the crowd wasn’t noisier for him. Well mate, write some better songs and have a few more hits and you’ll get the accolade you feel you deserve. Case in point; his one decent hit – Love me again – was well received. Rightly. Ellie Goulding, on the other hand, was simply great throughout. I thought she’d be all fey and fairy voiced but she belted out the hits and jumped around like an excited kid. A major artist in her own right, she knew her subsidiary place in this park of Swifties and so worked the crowd. We enjoyed her….
By now it was nudging eight o’ clock, it was as busy as hell and, even in the Premium area, viewing the stage was difficult. No sitting down and casually watching anymore. And then there she was – in one scream of adolescent hi-octane rush, Taylor came out fifteen minutes early and went all Welcome to New York on our asses.
Now, if you want a review about the costume changes, the stage backdrops, the dancers, you’re in the wrong place, as I don’t especially give a toss. Sorry. I liked the catwalk, I liked it even better when it took off into the air and Taylor floated above us (camera ready kids!). Her ‘celeb’ friends – couldn’t name them, no idea who they are – came on during Style. Whatever. The scene that celebrates itself.
But to the music… Well, I was worried because at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Norwich a month ago, Taylor seemed a little underpowered and her voice, never especially strong, was weaker than ever. Well, not last night and not in Hyde Park. She carried the show with her musical chops (some guitar, some piano, lots of dancing, plenty of face voguing to the camera). She was on fine form.
No review of a Taylor Swift gig would be complete without mentioning Taylor’s ramblings. Yes, she likes to talk to her audience. A lot. She speaks with the certainty and earnestness of youth about friendship, boyfriends, female empowerment, Instagram, cats; that sort of thing. I thought she pushed this soliloquising about as far as it could go last night. If it weren’t so crowded that would have been my cue for a toilet break or beer run. Her legion of young fans seem to like it though. She speaks to them.
The set list was principally from her latest album 1989 with a few – a very few – vintage hits for us older folk who remember all the way back to 2012. I Knew You Were Trouble was slowed down for the first half before speeding up. It didn’t work for me; you don’t mess with class lightly. A much better reinvention was We Are Never Getting Back Together, which saw a leather clad Taylor grunge up her breakthrough hit. She powered out chunky chords like Pete Townsend in a bad mood. She didn’t windmill the guitar but she snarled through this teeny tale as though she was the Who roaring through My Generation. One for the dads. Love Story was the reworked version which me and the kids – being Swifties – have seen endless times on YouTube. But it was good to have her floating above us as she sang.
Of the newer stuff, Blank Space, Bad Blood, Out of the Woods, all rocked. Two hours in and an extended Shake It Off, officially now a classic, had 65,000 people, word perfect, chanting along to THIS…SICK… BEAT. Are you paying attention John Newman? You earn your applause. Taylor’s got the songs, the attitude and, despite being ridiculously young, has religiously worked herself up to this high plateau. As Taylor said, amongst many other things, she will remember this night for the rest of her life.
Thing is, will it be to remember the moment when she was on top of the mountain or, has she hills yet to climb?
I’m so profound sometimes it literally hurts. It really does.
1) Food. Street food, of course; lots of pulled this and wood fired that. I had a vegan rendang. The rendang stall woman being surprised my kids not only wanted, but loved, rendang. Used to it. Fav dish. I cook! I score!
2) Great weather. A sun-cream day for the balding pate.
3) The two for one provision of female:male toilets being buggered up by a whole block of female loos being out of action most of the day. Epic fail, organisers!
4) The drunken girl honking up on the floor as 65,000 people passed her on the way out. Pull yourself together woman – this is a Taylor Swift gig FFS.
5) The flashing wristbands we all wore. Given out free at the gate. We all glowed in synchronised unity during Taylor's set.
6) My knowledge of Belgravia helping the kids and me get to and from Hyde Park in record time. I am my own hero.
7) The look on my youngest child’s face when she realised she was actually seeing Taylor Swift in the flesh. Yes, Taylor Swift! She really exists.
8) My kids liked it when Taylor’s mum ran past us a couple of times. Ah, our so close brush with celebrity! (Did I tell you I once bumped into Madonna in Cipriani’s?)
9) Two songs into Taylor’s set, re-affirming the old truth, retreat and see more! The back of our exclusive enclosure was sparsely populated. Much better views. Certainly much better than the crowds penned in behind us.
10) My kids posting their pictures on Instagram. The concert now ‘officially’ exists.