Taylor Swift was taking the kickoff of Pride Month pretty seriously — and the title of the Rolling Stones’ “She’s a Rainbow” pretty literally — during the climax to Saturday night’s annual iHeartRadio Wango Tango concert in Los Angeles. For anyone who’d read up on her newsmaking Instagram post from the night before, there wasn’t much question about why she was flying the colors right down to her rainbow sneakers, but she made it explicit anyway.
Dignity was on her mind as she took to the stage of Carson’s Dignity Health Sports Park at the close of a four-hour, multi-act show. “It’s wonderful to be spending this particular evening with you, because today is the first day of Pride Month,” she said. “A lot of my songs are about love, and I just feel like who you love, how you identify, you should be able to live your life the way you want to live your life with the same rights as everybody else. So I started this petition, and you can find the link on my Instagram. It’s for the Equality Act. and it basically just says that we want to send a message to our government that we believe everybody should be treated fairly in this country. If you sign it, it would really mean a lot to me, because I think we need to stick up for each other and stand together. Don’t you?”
Swift had emerged wearing a flamboyant vest with extreme levels of colorful, almost tie-dye-looking fringe, as if she wanted to be ready to march in a pride parade and step in as a last minute Woodstock 50 headliner if called upon. The cotton candy look of the bandshell reflected the aesthetic of her “Me!” video and artwork but also, in this case, doubled as implicit LGBTQ advocacy. (It’s a happy coincidence of timing that Swift is going full-in on the pride front now and not during her borderline-goth “Look What You Made Me Do” phase, although maybe we shouldn’t count out giant rainbow cobras on the next tour.)
Saying she wanted to spend “some time with just you and me,” Swift followed her Equality Act pitch with a solo acoustic performance of “Delicate,” the sweetest single off 2017’s “Reputation.” That previously unheard arrangement with just the star and her guitar was a tipoff that Swift would not be using her Wango Tango set to reprise what fans heard on the 2018 “Reputation” tour, even if she wasn’t about to debut any material from her upcoming album than the single that’s already out. After opening with the live staples “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space,” Swift used the occasion to service fans with four songs that hadn’t been performed in full by her and her band since her 2015 tour: “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “Love Story,” “Style” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” (The last two did figure into the “Reputation” setlist, but only in shortened medley versions or interpolations.)
With the show-closing rendition of “Me!,” it seemed as if audiences might finally get to hear what an all-Swift version of that song would sound like… but there was Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie, showing up mid-song to make this version of their fey pride anthem another “We!” performance after all.
Swift was preceded on the Wango Tango bill by the Jonas Brothers, who were greeted just as enthusiastically, boding well for their upcoming arena tour, the trio’s first in… how long has it been, again? “We just realized it’s been 11 years since we shared this Wango Tango stage with you,” said Joe Jonas. “So thank you for being patient.” Egged on by his brothers to stop being quiet, Kevin also used the P-word: “This has been a long journey getting here. Thank you for being patient. We’re stronger together for it.”
The audience — or the part of it that was even old enough to have been around for the original part of the Jonas Journey — might well have responded: No, thank you for taking yourself on the market long enough for us to miss you. The catalog songs they reprised from the pre-estrangement years hold up remarkably well for supposed teen-pop — “Burnin’ Up” and “Love Bug” are hits in any era, even with those strange, foreign-looking six-string instruments — and the fresh “Sucker” only sounds better in concert as more of a rhythm guitar-propelled rocker.
Guess who else was bringing the rock to Wango Tango, a generally rock-free zone if ever there was one? Halsey. Not that she’s suddenly going Joan Jett on everyone, even though her now jet-black shag cut almost makes it look like she’s leaning that way. But her new “Nightmare” single — which she described as “a song I wrote so you would go absolutely wild when you hear it” — is essentially a brooding and building rock ballad, and of course “11 Minutes,” which featured her significant other Yungblud as duet partner and lead guitarist, places her foot firmly in that camp. Maybe the skintight green camouflage she wearing at Wango Tango was a sign that she really does intend to slip across genre lines.
Coming in-between Halsey and the Jonases was Zedd, whose succession of lead vocalists was strictly on tape, unlike Coachella, where he’d managed to bring in guest appearances by Katy Perry and Maren Morris. After an opening set bu Five Seconds of Summer, much of the earlier part of Wango Tango consisted of a succession of quickie performances by freshman pop acts that proved that you don’t have to be a celebrity DJ to have your entire performance pre-recorded.