Taylor Swift w/ NeedToBreathe, Danny Gokey
Madison Square Garden
Tuesday, November 22
Better than: Singing along alone in the office.
Taylor Swift closed her Fearless tour before a sold-out football stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, where she performed her encore under artificial rain and gave Justin Bieber a big hug backstage. This might be new information to some of you, but to the majority of last night’s sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd, it was old news. And besides, who could dwell on the past when Swift was about to close out another tour, this one even bigger than the last. Most crowds would wonder about the setlist and stage routines, but those whose familiar, flashing signs gave away the fact that they already saw the tour when it rolled through Newark over the summer (guilty as charged, minus the sign) had more important questions to consider. What would be different? Would she reference the evening showers before singing “meet me in the pouring rain”? Who will the special guest be? Will it be Bieber? Oh, please could it be Bieber.
Because Maura covered the basics after the first of those four Newark shows—and because her description of, say, the “Evanescence-gone-Cirque du Soleil” dancers-swinging-from-church-bells routine that backed “Haunted” is startlingly accurate—I’m going to breeze through a few highlights and differences. But first, what was the same: In no particular order, the setlist (save for two additions, which I’ll get to in a moment); the stage performances; the part where she sits below a giant, illuminated “tree” and plays a few acoustic songs; most of the fans (I already mentioned that); the astoundingly bad hairdos on both of her guitarists (looked worse close-up); and the part at the end where the parents turn to each other and say, “Hey, that was actually a pretty good show.”
Last night, those parents were in for a special treat because the second surprise guest was, yes, James Taylor, who dueted with singer on “Fire and Rain” and finger-picked through “Fifteen.” It would make more sense if you had heard Swift’s introduction, during which she told us how as a kid the highlight of her school day was singing the former during choir class and how when she relayed this story to her mom, her mom revealed for the first time that she had named her daughter after the singer.
Meanwhile, the kids got Selena Gomez, who came out for her own “Who Says” (the screams were so loud that even standing in front of the stage, you could barely hear the first verse) and Swift’s “Enchanted.” And after leaving, Gomez continued singing, joining the crowd (still wearing her Taylor tour tee) and never missing a even a single lyric. For what it’s worth, “Who Says” even won over a few of the parents. “What’s her name?” a woman standing a few rows in front of me asked her spouse. “She’s good.” (This couple would later be seen cuddling to James Taylor.)
If the show had any lull, it probably took place during the two songs (“Haunted” and “Long Live”) after Selena left and before the band broke for the encore. If you’re seven years old&$151;or even if you’re three times that—two and a half hours is a long time to spend watching a concert, particularly if you’re also dancing, singing, holding up a sign, or some combination thereof. At some point, you’re going to need to take a break. Oddly, this break was as precious as any of the songs, and with parents bouncing their resting children in every direction I turned, I couldn’t help but hope that should I ever have kids, their teenpop idols might be as good as the ones I saw tonight.
Critical bias:The last-minute “13” I drew on my hand hasn’t quite washed off yet.
Random notebook dump: A friend of a friend—and a reliable source when it comes to these kinds of things—swore that she saw Bieber’s mom in the crowd, and I’m going to take her word for it.
Story of Us
Back to December
Better than Revenge
Young Belong with Me
Who Says (with Selena Gomez)
Enchanted (with Selena Gomez)
Fire and Rain (with James Taylor)
Fifteen (with James Taylor)