Whenever Taylor Swift used to perform her 2009 ballad “You Belong With Me,” you could practically hear the angst gnawing through her skin like an episode of “My So-Called Life.” But on Friday night in Dublin, as part of the overseas leg of her “Reputation” tour, she gave her old song a new twist. “Dublin, let me see you jump!” she said in front of an audience of 70,000 fans at Croke Park, as she led the charge in knee-high boots. If all of Ireland felt a little tremor, it’s because Taylor gets what she wants.
In these vocals for “You Belong to Me,” Swift wasn’t sorrowfully hoping for the song’s title to come to pass. She was declaring it as fact. Maybe it’s because, at 28, Swift has undergone a musical metamorphosis or that she’s found stable ground in her personal life. Swift belted out the song as a statement instead of a question, as if was no doubt anybody wouldn’t want to be with Taylor Swift. She had enough witnesses to vouch for that.
In “Look What You Made Me Do,” the first single off “Reputation,” Swift declared the old Taylor Swift had died. But seeing her on tour, it’s a relief to see that’s not the case. Swift is still the most well-mannered pop star in music, as evidenced by her profusely thanking the Dublin crowd for warmly receiving her on a Friday night. What else would they be doing? The Swifties arrived at Croke Park carrying signs like “Don’t Blame Me, Tay Made Me Crazy!”
Chris Willman has already reviewed Swift’s “Reputation” tour for Variety, but it’s worth making a few additional observations from Friday’s tour-de-force overseas show. Many (great) artists can get lost in a big stadium setting, but Swift comfortably rose to the occasion. It helped that she literally flew over the crowd on a small Gondola Lift, landing on two separate stages that gave her proximity to some of the fans in farther seats. She even reached out and touched dozens of squealing concert-goers on a short walk from the second stage to the third stage. And then, returning to the main stage, she boarded a flying snake (a reoccurring motif on her tour, and a nod to her feud with Kanye West), as she sang “Bad Blood.”
Swift has grown up as a performer, and there were signs of that throughout her two-hour set, which includes fireworks, Broadway-caliber dancers and props. Her vocals soared on both the pop songs and quieter ballads, starting with the opener “…Ready For It” through “New Year’s Day,” which had her seated behind the piano (she also played a green guitar, appropriate for her venue). Swift is the first woman to headline Croke Park for two consecutive performances, an accomplishment not lost on her. Her first night in Dublin was a reminder that Taylor Swift deserves her reputation for putting on a satisfying show.